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King Valley fires witness to Climate Change

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Bushfires starting in the King Valley is an ominous sign for the rest of Victoria.

The King Valley is located in a high rainfall area with an average 1100 mm of rain per annum and most of that rain comes with electrical storms. It is not unusual for the Whitfield, Cheshunt, Edi Upper and Myrrhee brigades to be called to fires caused by lightning strikes.

But, this was different. On 1st December 2006, an electrical storm that lasted just a few minutes simultaneously ignited up to 50 bushfires – all in inaccessible locations. Usually these electrical storms are accompanied by rain. This was a dry electrical storm without any rain.

Philip McGuire representing Mountain Cattlemen argues on his website that, “THERE is a strong case for a Royal Commission into these fires. Part of its terms of reference should be to examine the relationship between the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and the Victorian National Parks Association.”

Now that the first fire assault has passed, the interest groups are sheeting blame on those that stand in their way.

Bruce Esplin, Victoria’s Emergency Services Commissioner, says climate change is causing longer, more aggressive bushfire seasons and must be factored into the state’s fire fighting plans.

He says we are seeing unprecedented fire behavior, that conditions are far worse and we need to be able to deal with a far more aggressive, long-lasting and dangerous fire season. He believes climate change is the missing link in debate and criticism.

Whilst there is enough blame to go around, we should look carefully at the recent weather history of the King Valley. 2006 has seen only a third of the average rainfall.Over the last twelve months, we missed out on spring, winter and autumn.

In September, the Whitfield Rural Fire Brigade was called out to eight grass and scrub fires – all escaped burnoffs due to the lack of moisture content in the grass and trees.

Killing frosts wiped out the grape and fruit crops throughout the district with an unprecedented black frost occurring around the 16th November. The district has been knocked about by continuous strong winds for nearly two months culminating in the dry lightning strike that started thew bushfires on 1st December.

Now just before Christmas, the leaves are falling three months early and there is a prediction of snow falling in the alps on Christmas day. And many people, including our Prime Minister, still question the reality of climate change.


Written by Greg Naylor

23 December 2006 at 11:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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