Australian firefighter dies battling blazes, raising death toll to 28

Pablo Tucker
January 13, 2020

"It is with great sadness that we confirm that a. firefighter from Parks Victoria has been involved in an incident while working on a fire in the Omeo area resulting in a fatality", Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said in a statement.

The 60-year-old married father of two was commended in November for 40 years of service with the forestry agency.

NSW's National Parks and Wildlife Service staff load carrots and sweet potatoes to air-drop for animals in wildfire-stricken areas, in Wollemi National Park, Australia, on January 10, 2020.

Authorities were assessing the damage after firefighters battled flames fanned by strong winds through the night and lightning strikes sparked new blazes in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia's most populous states. The weather is expected to remain benign for the next week, although any deterioration in conditions after that could see the wildfires flare up again.

"Although we have tremendous experience in identifying unsafe trees, sometimes these tree breaks can not be predicted", said Hardman.

The bushfires that have been raging since September 2019 have destroyed more than 2,000 homes and an area twice the size of Belgium, and have killed or destroyed the habitats of an estimated one billion wild animals. Four of the casualties were firefighters. The reprieve from severe fire conditions promises to be the longest of the current fire season.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday conceded he's made some mistakes since the worst season of bushfires ever recorded in Australia broke out, The New York Times reports.

The fires themselves have further stoked climate change by emitting 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, the European Union's Copernicus monitoring programme said.

Critics have slammed Morrison for his staunch support of Australia's coal industry and his previous reluctance to acknowledge the role climate change has played in intensifying the fires.

"There are things I could have handled on the ground much better", he said. The government was now working through the details of the framework with local governments.

Morrison said he was considering holding a wide-ranging national inquiry into the bushfires after the immediate crisis passed.

Morrison said his government accepted that climate change was leading to longer, hotter and drier summers, despite junior government lawmaker George Christensen posting on social media over the weekend that the cause of the latest fires was arson rather than man-made climate change. Another young lawmaker, Craig Kelly, has also publicly denied any link between climate change and the fire crisis.

"The government's policy is set by the Cabinet".

The prime minister today acknowledged "adaptation and resilience" would be key to navigating the changing climate, and reiterated the government meant to "meet and beat" its emissions targets.

While his office earlier on Sunday said that more mental health services will become available to the people affected by the fires, Mr Morrison rejected criticism that his government had not done enough before the bushfire season started.

Evan Harris, who lives in the New South Wales rural village of Burragate, said police and fire crews told him he should leave his cottage because of the threat.

Cooler weather conditions have brought a temporary respite for numerous country's burning areas over the weekend, but a firefighter died on duty in Victoria, where new flames sparked.

Other reports by iNewsToday