Already this year, Canada, Greece, Hawaii and countless other states have been hit by hundreds of wildfires, but at the same time, Australia is in a special position: the country has had to rely on a volunteer fire brigade of more than 190,000 to fight the fires. I mentioned the battle to defeat the flames phys.com.
Firefighters have already shown their bravery when putting out forest fires that occurred during the “Black Summer” of 2019-2020.
This disaster not only killed millions of animals and 33 people, but also led to the displacement of thousands of residents and the destruction of large areas of eucalyptus forests as a result of fires.
Australians fear that if bushfires become more frequent and intense due to global warming, firefighters will no longer be able to fight them.
Andy Hine, a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service who has two children, also expressed his concerns, saying: “It’s a terrible thing to think about, but if 2019 to 2020 becomes the norm, I can’t imagine living with it. I don’t think it can be.”
Hine also stressed that if Australia faces a disaster similar to the “Black Summer” in the near future, other countries will have to support the country with more resources and specialists than before. The man has now spent more than a decade as a volunteer firefighter in Picton, a town of about 5,000 people southwest of Sydney.
As the fire service also noted, as a result of the ‘Black Summer’, the risk of grass fires in Australia is now the highest it has been in two decades.
On the way to Picton, kangaroos hop in front of the homes of families sunbathing. At the same time, the idyllic image is interrupted by Hine calling out the color of straw hidden in the green of the roadside grass, a sign that he might catch fire at any moment.
Just as in surrounding states, firefighters in New South Wales have also pre-burned dense foliage and shrubs, preparing for the disaster the coming summer season will bring. They go around the area with fuel-filled “diagonal torches,” that is, metal cans with long, narrow tubes with a small flame at the end, to ignite the bushes and then extinguish the remaining embers.
Like most members of the RFS’s 70,000-strong volunteer team, Hain also has a full-time job, which in his case means he works for an airline every day of the week. But due to the upcoming fire season, your paid job won’t be a priority for a while.
As disaster approaches, Hein also worries about his colleagues
They will have to keep their jobs and be with their families at the same time, while risking their lives by putting out fires.
Nearly 82,000 Flame Knights successfully averted “Black Summer” disasters, and 78% of the firefighters were volunteers. After the bushfires, the University of Western Australia assessed the need for mental assistance among firefighters, according to which nearly 5,000 people fell into the “critical need” category.
But what happens if, as a result of increasingly powerful and frequent fires, other Australian states or other foreign countries are unable to provide assistance, because they will also need all their resources?
Former NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins also expressed concerns, saying: “We are being forced to ask our working citizens to leave their paid jobs… How long can this continue?”
He also confirmed that during the “Black Summer” many firefighters saved their neighbors’ house while their own was on fire, which had serious consequences for their mental health.
“Unfortunately, I saw many colleagues who were devastated by what they saw,” Mullins said.
The Wisemans Ferry is located about a 90-minute drive from Sydney, on the banks of the Hawkesbury River and surrounded by several national parks.
In the second half of 2019, a huge fire broke out during a lightning strike near the home of 35-year-old RFS volunteer Kim Brownlee, who lives here. He says they consider themselves lucky, because in the end no house fell victim to the huge fire.
“The volunteers did an amazing job, coming to our aid from all over the country.”
A few months later, the first of four subsequent floods inundated Brownlee’s hometown. Fellow volunteer Mitchell Brennan watched his house sink under water and then focused all his energy on saving people.
“We helped everyone after the flood with food, water and fuel as much as we could,” he said. “We didn’t even have a chance to save anything, because the city was covered in water. We couldn’t do anything about it, and it wasn’t possible to prevent anything.”