A University of Wollongong senior academic has warned that parts of the Southern Highlands may become uninhabitable in the coming years unless people are prepared to radically change how they think about building design and fire management.
Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires director Professor Ross Bradstock said people wanting to live in fire-prone areas were likely to have to accept ‘‘much greater impositions’’ in the future.
He said this could include more evacuations, more extensive land clearing and modifications to houses.
‘‘People may have to reconsider whether they really want to live in an area where threatening fires become more common,’’ Prof Bradstock said.
‘‘A lot of houses were built 40 or 50 years ago to a certain design or standard, but those just didn’t take fires into account.’’
He said the average person living in a fire-prone area could not assume someone else would come to their rescue once a bushfire started.
‘‘Their own personal plan will make a difference in terms of risk,’’ Prof Bradstock said.
‘‘Evidence suggests many properties are not well prepared.’’
He said while climate change wasn’t directly responsible for the recent bushfires, it was responsible for creating a series of weather conditions conducive to larger, more intense fires, outside the norm for this time of year.
‘‘The science surrounding fire in the future is extensive...there’s essentially no argument about the prognosis that fire will increase in some way in the not too distant future as a result of climate change,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a question that has essentially been answered.
‘‘The most critical thing is we have had a record warm winter and we’ve had essentially three months without rain.’’
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Bellambi weather station recorded 27.8 millimetres of rain for July, 5.2mm for August and 81.4mm for September.