Thursday, November 19, 2009

Australia's new fire warning system - code red


The introduction of a new bushfire warning system and the subsequent issue of a catastrophic (code red)fire warning in South Australia confused residents. It confused me too.

Apparently the new system was introduced in September around Australia, but this escaped me. Those who are interested can find more details here.

At this stage I have no idea what to do should a code red be issued.

Growing up in a fire prone country does make one aware of the dangers. However, there has been a tendency over recent decades to what we might call bracket creep, the greater use of extreme and severe fire danger rankings.

It is very hard to describe for overseas readers just what it feels like to be in not so much a bushfire but in the middle of a high fire danger area.

Driving back to Sydney from Armidale when the kids were young, the route we followed took us down through mountainous country.

It was already in the high thirties when we left early in the morning. By the time we reached the coastal strip it was in the forties, a dry baking sort of heat. The country was covered with heat haze, there was a smoke smell in the air, and it was actually quite hard to breath.

There were fires all over the North at the time, and we could see at least some of the smoke plumes in the far distance. At a small store where we stopped to get a drink, a Rural Fire Service Tanker pulled in to do likewise. They wear quite heavy kit, and my daughters wondered just how they coped in the baking heat.

The most that you can do in these circumstances if you have to travel is to listen to the news and also ask the locals as we did at the small store.


A number of fires have indeed broken out today. Stories here and here. NSW has issued several code reds for tomorrow. I remain to be convinced about their value.  

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