10 October 2019News

Convergence: Disaster management measures must be upgraded

Disaster management in many places must be upgraded, according to Tim Brown, research professor and climatology director at the Division of Atmospheric Sciences of the Desert Research Institute in Nevada.

With wildfires doing increasing damage in recent years, Brown called for zoning to be increased, along with risk mapping, mitigation measures, public education improvements to firefighter health and safety.

Speaking at Convergence 2019, Brown said the danger posed by wildfires is increasing due to a combination of factors that include climate change and urbanisation. Droughts and changes to local microclimates are leading to wildfires that last longer, he said.

Studies of recent wildfires show that changing climate, fuel and people-related factors are influencing the severity of these events. In California there is more vegetation in forests, which dries out due to drought. This, combined with population growth in previously sparsely populated areas, is transforming those areas’ risk profiles.

Brown pointed to the Napa fires of 2017, which led to 44 dead, 8,900 structures being destroyed and 90,000 people evacuated. In 1964 there was a similar fire in the same area, but as there were far fewer people in the area there was a fraction of the damage.