Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Former Queensland fire chief Lee Johnson arguing for militarisation of the fire service, to deal with the climate apocalypse. But as the picture above shows, there may be another explanation for bushfire problems in Queensland.
‘Climate change war’ demands national, military-style response: Ex-fire chiefs
By Mike Foley
July 6, 2020 — 5.45pm
Australia is fighting a climate war as well as battling more natural disasters, which demands a military-style, co-ordinated national response, the bushfire and natural disaster royal commission has heard.
Former Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Commissioner Lee Johnson fronted the royal commission on Monday, saying “we’re confronted with a locality of battles in a greater climate change war”.
He said state and federal emergency agencies need help from the Commonwealth to develop military-style capabilities in “communications, intelligence, surveillance and support”.
“Following Tropical Cyclone Larry in 2006 I realised that emergency services needed to operate in a more military-like fashion,” Mr Johnson said. “This is where the federal government can support with experts and probably what’s missing is some kind of national command college.”
Mr Mullins said the climate change enemy had “gone nuclear”, which required a “step change in how we coordinate the insufficient resources we have to deal with this threat”.
…Read more: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/climate-change-war-demands-national-military-style-response-ex-fire-chiefs-20200706-p559h7.html
Other fire experts take a different view, dismissing the climate change argument, saying uncomfortable things about Australia’s recent bushfires being the government’s fault for failing to properly maintain government owned forests.
The following is an interview with renowned former CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney from January this year. His view, the fires were “the inevitable result of the government abrogating its responsibility to manage public lands”.
In the interview Cheney explains decades of failure to manage forests, including a failure to implement prescribed burns recommended by the 2009 Bushfire Royal Commission. Cheney also slams local district council red tape, which prevents landowners from conducting controlled burns or tree removal on their own properties.
The militarisation idea, if implemented, would have to be handled very carefully.
Australian rural fire services rely heavily on unpaid but highly experienced volunteers, who when they are not fighting fires have normal day jobs; farmers, shop workers, mechanics, financial advisers, doctors. Established professional people, in many case business owners, who are there because they want to protect their homes and keep their families and communities safe.
I suspect if some inexperienced fresh faced graduate from a newly militarised fire service academy showed up and started ordering them about, I doubt many of them would put up with it for long.
Update (EW): Clarified that the “tinderbox” picture above was taken in the state of Queensland. Lee Johnson is a former fire chief of Queensland.