The following statement was made in the Upper House of State Parliament today by the Hon Diane Evers, Greens Member for the South West region
NATURAL DISASTERS — WILDFIRES — UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
HON DIANE EVERS (South West) [5.33 pm]: I will be brief. I just need to take the time to comment on the fact that in the United States at the moment there are hundreds of wildfires burning. It is important to me because I have found out that my brother and his family’s home is under threat. To show members how significant the threat is, his insurance company has sent out a fire truck to protect his home. When I first heard this, I thought, “Gee, I’ve never heard of that in Australia; it’s a new step.” But the insurance company has the most to lose financially, so this is just to let members be aware that this is the next step in fire mitigation.
We have a situation in which the US had a wet winter followed by a dry summer—so dry that some places received less than one tenth of their normal rainfall. In addition, it has been an extremely hot summer there. We can understand why there are fires burning up and down the whole western coast. People are walking around with wet cloths over their mouths, as they did when Mount St Helens blew up some years ago.
In Montana alone, one million acres have been burnt so far and the fires are still going. My brother has been told that the fires in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, which is where he lives, are expected to be contained by 15 October. From now until then, they will be waiting, wondering and hoping.
It is very serious. The reason this is important is that we live in WA and we know what fire is like. It started out as a very dry winter and now it is quite wet in some areas. We know that things are changing. We have been told for over a decade that we will have stronger, more intense weather events. The other side of the United States is about to have another hurricane. There was one just last week and now they are buckling down for another one. We can sit here and debate forever whether climate change is happening and whether it is manmade, but doing that will not make a change. We are now in the very difficult situation in which we have to make some decisions about how we are going to face the next summer should we be hit with terrible firestorms.
I will leave my comments there and leave members thinking about this issue. The time to act was a couple of decades ago, but we cannot go back in time. The time to act is today. If we can think of anything we can do on an individual, community or statewide basis, or by lobbying federally—whatever it might be—we need to do it today or people will be facing these horrific storms long after we are gone.