Farmers face more frequent freak fires

In my 30 years of firefighting, the scene unfolding in January 2003 was like nothing I had witnessed. I watched the fire round the side of a steep hill at speed and, when it reached the flat, jump more than 50 metres from tree top to tree top with no surface fire below and virtually no winds.

Since then, such catastrophic fire events have become more common: we’ve had the Blue Mountain fires, Black Saturday, Wambelong fire at Coonabarabran, Esperance in Western Australia, and the Sir Ivan fire last summer.

Climate change is worsening fire risk conditions across much of Australia.

The Southern Australia seasonal bushfire risk assessment, put out recently, maps how fire severity and intensity will increase over the coming decade as conditions become hotter and drier.

Fire seasons are also becoming longer. All this makes preparations – for firefighters and those living on the land – more difficult, but even more critical.

As farmers, we need to be prepared earlier. We must ensure our insurance is up to date and comprehensive, not only for stock or commodity, but also against income that’s lost until production is restored.

As an emergency services manager, you always plan for the worst-case scenario – even if there’s only a five per cent chance. Farmers should also plan for the worst – even as we hope for the best – with the chances of such an occurrence worsening due to our changing climate.

Farmers for Climate Action is keen to understand how farmers are preparing for and adapting to increasing fire risks.

Farmers and firefighters are on the front line and I encourage all to take part so we can be even better prepared for what lies ahead.

Vivien Thomson is co-director of the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance, and a New South Wales Farmer. To take part in the survey, visit

This story Fire season: farmers face more frequent freak fires first appeared on The Courier.