Climate change may be playing a role in re-emergence of wildfires: Working on Fire

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The integrated fire management agency, Working on Fire, says it is seeing a regular re-emergence of major wildfires amid concerns that climate change may be playing a role.

This follows a United Nations Environment Programme report that calls for a radical change in government spending on wildfires.

The report says investment should shift from reaction and response to prevention and preparedness.

Rising temperatures due to climate change mean that fires flare up more easily and are harder to suppress in many cases.

Working on Fire managing director Trevor Abrahams explains.

“There does seem to be a pattern of more fires becoming more frequently and more intense. We also have the added challenge of alien vegetation, which is more extreme in terms of the spread of fire, wild land fires. Prior to the start of the season, we also engage these communities in them becoming aware of what steps to take to mitigate and avoid the risk of wild land fires.”

Prevention and preparedness 

The UN Environment Programme report titled Spreading like Wildfire: The Rising Threat of Extraordinary Landscape Fires, calls on governments to adopt what they refer to as a new ‘Fire Ready Formula’, with two-thirds of spending devoted to planning, prevention, preparedness, and recovery, with one third left for response.

The report says that currently, direct responses to wildfires typically receive over half of related expenditures, while planning receives less than one percent.

“Current government responses to wildfires are often putting money in the wrong place. Those emergency service workers and firefighters on the frontlines who are risking their lives to fight forest wildfires need to be supported”, said Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director. “We have to minimize the risk of extreme wildfires by being better prepared: invest more in fire risk reduction, work with local communities, and strengthen global commitment to fight climate change”.

Calls to act fast on climate change 

Meanwhile, rising temperatures and heavier rainfall across South Africa since December 2021 caused severe floods, claiming the lives of over 80 people.

Environmentalists have since raised the alarm, warning government not to delay policy plans that will help mitigate climate change in the country.

More details in the report below: