'We will see many more deaths': Call for national approach to early bushfire detection

Experts are pushing for governments to adopt a string of recommendations to better prepare communities for the upcoming bushfire season.

A national plan for effectively preparing and responding to bushfires and climate change involving more than 100 experts, including 33 former fire and emergency chiefs, was launched on Thursday.

We've been looking towards this issue, and people are more aware. We pride ourselves on our pristine environment and people turn those words into actions.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action president and Bega Valley councillor Jo Dodds

The first Emergency Leaders for Climate Action organised National Bushfire and Climate Summit put forward 165 recommendations, including the creation of a fossil fuel sector funded national climate disaster fund, increasing aerial firefighting capabilities, initiating a cultural burning strategy and expanding the ability to insure properties.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action president and NSW Bega Valley councillor Jo Dodds participated in the summit, and said Australia needs a consistent national approach to early detection of fires before they escalate.

"We can't just react when we see smoke on the horizon, or we will see many more deaths," Ms Dodds said.

"We need to be all on the same page, with the best technology."

She said better support is needed for volunteer firefighters, who bore the brunt of the summer's devastating bushfires.

Jo Dodds outside Parliament House in Canberra last year. Picture: Dean Sewell/Greenpeace

Jo Dodds outside Parliament House in Canberra last year. Picture: Dean Sewell/Greenpeace

"Mental health is something which will have one of the longest effects on the community," she said.

Ms Dodds said the recommendation of constructing community resilience hubs, which she said council is working towards, in every local government area is critical for bushfire-prone communities, and could be implemented before the upcoming fire season.

"The message [former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner] Greg Mullins brings to every forum is that the fires are now so hot and fast, and outside the experience of firefighters," she said.

"He says they are not fightable, and we don't have the resources to fight these fires, so communities must be moved out of the way.

"He also emphasises acting on climate change, and the need to stop emitting carbon dioxide, as well as investing in local firefighting resources for suppression.

"We can no longer rely on North American resources being shared because our fire seasons now overlap."

She said the region is so engaged with the issue, the NSW Bega Valley had "by far" the highest number of submissions to the ongoing bushfire royal commission.

Watch the entire final session of the National Bushfire and Climate Summit hosted by Kerry O'Brien.

"It is definitely an indication of how this region is engaged," Ms Dodds said.

"We've been looking towards this issue, and people are more aware. We pride ourselves on our pristine environment and people turn those words into actions."

On top of the summit and royal commission, there is also currently a state inquiry and a Senate inquiry underway.

"Climate change has pushed Australia into a new bushfire era where we must fundamentally rethink how we prepare for and manage this growing threat," Mr Mullins said on Thursday.

"This plan outlines practical steps that all levels of government can take right now to better protect communities.

"It's important that the federal government takes these recommendations seriously and acts on them urgently.

"First and foremost, the federal government must tackle the root cause of climate change by urgently phasing out fossil fuels to reach net zero emissions.

"We also hope they will be included in the royal commission's final report," he said.

Deloitte Access Economics principal Nicki Hutley said the cost of extreme weather events is set to reach $39 billion per year by 2050.

"Climate change, which is fuelling more severe extreme weather events and worsening bushfire danger, has serious economic consequences," Ms Hutley, who contributed to the report, said.

"Reducing emissions, building community resilience, and boosting emergency resourcing can help us avoid huge economic impacts and damage in the future, while creating clean new jobs right now."

Climate councillor and public health physician Dr Kate Charlesworth said bushfire smoke led to 400 deaths and more than 4,000 hospitalisations.

"The climate-health crisis is affecting Australians now, and is the number one threat to people's health in the long-term," she said.

"We urgently need a national climate and health strategy to protect Australians."

This story 'We will see many more deaths': Call for national approach to early bushfire detection first appeared on Bega District News.