OUR SAY | Winter fires a warning of trouble, a reminder of RFS crews’ courage

WINTER WORRIES: Firefighters battle a blaze at Bomaderry on the state's south coast. Photo: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
WINTER WORRIES: Firefighters battle a blaze at Bomaderry on the state's south coast. Photo: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

For a city like Orange caught in the throes of a relentlessly cold winter, headlines about raging bushfires elsewhere in NSW seem more than a little unreal. 

Indeed, the extremity of the drought afflicting some areas of NSW will require a difficult leap of the imagination for sodden people in other states.

Is our weather really upside down and what is causing it? While the climate scientists are best qualified to answer these questions, what all these stories highlight is how real the impact is.  

The northern hemisphere summer, in many places the hottest ever, hits home with even worse cases of new extremes. Bushfires took a terrible toll in Greece – 90 people dead around Athens – and in the United States, where fewer people died but the fires were larger, burning out more than 1.7 million hectares.

On the weekend another batch of Orange and Central West firefighters boarded a plane, bound for the north-east corner of the state, where several fire are still raging. As always, they go with our thanks, and our admiration.

In Australia, with much of the eastern half of Australia in drought, there is an alarming three-state run of fires.

The Rural Fire Service predicted it and shifted the start of the official bushfire season from October 1 to August 1 in parts of NSW. In Queensland, more than 1000 fires have been recorded in August, including 700 in the past week.

And as is increasingly the case each time we find ourselves facing unusual or unseasonal events, it is difficult to discuss such situations without reference to climate change.

Some will say that it doesn’t matter, that we’ve always had droughts and bushfires in Australia. And the argument might hold water if this were a case of more of the same.

But as well as the plethora of scientific information used to build the base case for climate change, there’s the many subtler things that all of us can see, like the early arrival of migratory birds, and the early flowering of a myriad of plants.

The problem is this change comes with the price of so many other impacts, not least devastating bushfires in the middle of winter.

Maybe the only positive to come from the often devastating impact of these blazes is the spotlight they shine upon our heroic RFS crews.

On the weekend another batch of Orange and Central West firefighters boarded a plane, bound for the north-east corner of the state, where several fire are still raging.

As always, they go with our thanks, and our admiration.

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