The president of the NSW Volunteer Fire Fighters Association says the situation on the ground is ‘out of control’ as he calls for volunteers to receive expenses. Follow latest news and updates
We have updated our map showing the scale of the bushfire crisis in NSW and Queensland. The total area burned in the two states is now 3.65m hectares.
Anthony Albanese is speaking to reporters in the Blue Mountains now. He says compensating volunteer firefighters is a “common sense” issue.
I’ve spoken to the volunteer firefighters and there is not one of them that I have spoken to who has said that some form of compensation is required. Not one.
If someone has not had an income for a period of months because they have been fighting fires — and we met someone in Bilpin who had been fighting fires since September, every day — people who don’t have an income for a period of three months, it is unsustainable. Common-sense tells you that.
The people I’ve spoken to who have decades of experience are saying that they’ve never seen anything like this. There are record numbers of homes have been lost. There have been lives that have been lost. This is a crisis. It requires an appropriate response.
While Scott Morrison is in South Australia today, federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese is still in the Blue Mountains. He is expected to talk to media shortly.
At 8.45am this morning there are 92 fires burning across New South Wales with more than 40 still to be contained.
The minister in charge of the bushfire crisis in NSW, the emergency services minister, David Elliot, has reportedly told the Australian that a proposal by Labor that volunteer firefighters should be paid for their time would undermine volunteer ethos and potentially undermine firefighting efforts — because the Rural Fire Service could never afford to pay all of its 70,000 volunteer members.
Anyone who is arguing we have to pay them doesn’t understand the ethos of the volunteer in this country.
If we pay one volunteer emergency services organisation we are going to have to pay them all. That would be a very difficult thing to do.
Scott Morrison is in South Australia today and will be visiting communities affected by the catastrophic bushfires there, which burned through 47,000 hectares and destroyed 87 houses.
Our photographer-at-large Mike Bowers was in Balmoral yesterday and captured some of the devastation in the town that was among the worst hit by the Green Wattle Creek fire in the southern highlands.
Reporters Michael McGowan and Helen Davidson have been in Balmoral over the past few days. They spoke to survivors including Steve Harrison, a 67-year-old potter who described climbing into a “coffin-sized” makeshift kiln when the fire approached.
It was eerie. The light was this metallic, luminous glow. Burning leaves were falling around me. The smoke was so thick I could hardly breathe. I just watched it as it came over me. I was shit scared. I thought, ‘This is how I die.’
I spoke too soon. The CFS has just issued a watch and act alert for the Cudlee Creek fire in South Australia.
#Bushfire Watch and Act for #HOLLANDS_CREEK_ROAD,_CUDLEE_CREEK #fire. Take action now as this bushfire may threaten your safety. If you are not prepared, leave now and if the path is clear, go to a safer place. #WAM ID=0003903 #SAFires https://t.co/YLs2SJUOAo pic.twitter.com/BEb2I3rJI7
There is only one fire at watch and act level in south-eastern Australia this morning.
Fuels are incredibly dry. The spread of some of these fires over the past couple of days with really light winds and winds from the south is creating a challenge for us. It’s just really unusual that the fuels are that dry that the normal behaviour that we would expect to see in terms of the spread of these fires is not happening.
More than 4 million hectares of Australia has burned since the start of spring, according to figures collated by Guardian Australia.
That figure is likely to increase — not just because we have three months to go in the southern fire season, but because the split between state-run and local government-run firefighting forces in WA means the figure from that state is incomplete.
Debate about whether volunteer firefighters should be compensated, and what form any compensation should take, is continuing today. Labor is pushing the debate and it has the support of the volunteer firefighters’ association, but Scott Morrison yesterday ruled out making a “knee-jerk” response. Some employees, like public servants, get paid leave for their volunteer bushfire duties but not everyone is in that position.
They are out there chewing smoke. It’s all very well for the prime minister to say they have got what they need — I am sure the air was pretty good in Hawaii.