Now, Greg Mullins has written a book about his
experience as a bushfire fighter in Australia, including being part of the
battle against some of the most devastating bushfires in the world.
His book, Firestorm,1 is far more
chilling than anything that I went on to write, or to read for that matter.
Furthermore, his book is factual. This is no work of imagination. This is not
This is a chilling account of how bushfires (all
around the world, not just in Australia) are becoming more intense, more
frequent, with longer “seasons,” and much, much harder to control. With fifty
years experience, Greg Mullins asks: ‘Why?’
His answer is simple and to the point: climate change.
During a research visit to California in the mid-1990s Mullins was introduced
to early scientific papers on climate change by the Captain of the Oakland Fire
Department. Mullins has read many papers since, and talked with dozens of
But it is primarily his experience and witnessing of
the changes in bushfires that leads him to make the clear connection between a
warming planet and these changes.
If Greg Mullins could find a word that means “the
unprecedented increase in unprecedented events” then I assume he would have
used it in his book. The word – unprecedented – occurs often in his
book. And not without reason.
Mullins lists, and expands upon, many of the unprecedented
events and patterns associated with bushfires in Australia.
There can few more knowledgeable and experienced
bushfire experts in the world than the author of this un-put-downable
book. He was the Commissioner of New South Wales (NSW) Fire and Rescue from
2003 until retiring in 2017 (the second longest serving since the service began
in 1884.) Since his retirement he has returned to bushfire fighting as a
volunteer with the brigade with which he began his long career in 1973.
Greg Mullins has received many awards, including the
Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) in 2001 and Officer of the Order of Australia
(AO) in 2018. He knows what he is talking (writing) about.
In 2019 he was a founding member of Emergency Leadersfor Climate Action (ELCA.) He writes in the book about the founding of this
group of former chiefs and deputy chiefs of fire services and other emergency
services from throughout Australia. He also outlines their frustration at not
being able to take their warning of coming bushfire disaster to the Australian
government (and Prime Minister in particular) before the cataclysmic
fires of 2019/20 (referred to as Black Summer.2)
The chapter on Black Summer is the central
chapter in the book. It tells in grim reality of the devastation of those
fires: 24 million hectares burnt; more than 3,000 homes destroyed. Plus, thousands
of other schools, shops, and farm buildings; 35 people directly by the fire,
and a further 417 killed by the smoke, as well as 4,500 hospitalisations; and
up to 3 billion (yes, you read that correct – billion) animals killed. It was –
When Black Summer did occur, Mullins and others
were still side-lined (sometimes ridiculed by shock-jock radio hosts and other
media commentators). They were told: “This is not the time to talk about
If then was not the time, then when is, Greg Mullins
could be forgiven for asking. Certainly, his book is an outstanding
contribution to the time to talk.
1. Greg Mullins, Firestorm: Battling Super-charged
Natural Disasters, Viking, Australia, 2021
2. Black Summer
began in late July/early August 2019 and continued until May 2020. The
statutory NSW Bush Fire Danger Period (bushfire season) runs from 1
October until 31 March. Black Summer extended that season considerably.