Day 2 of the bushfire near Coolum Industrial Park. Water bombing continued near Arcoona Road.
Day 2 of the bushfire near Coolum Industrial Park. Water bombing continued near Arcoona Road. John McCutcheon

MY SAY: The fires will only get more severe

UNLESS fire management of bush on the Sunshine Coast changes dramatically, we're only going to see more bushfires like the ones that rocked Coolum and Sippy Downs over the past few weeks.

We need to start burning the bush with low intensity fires every day it's safe to burn, as the traditional owners would have done before settlement.

Not indiscriminately, or over huge areas at once, but consistently so the fuel load is kept down.

It wouldn't be an easy practice to master but it could be done if indigenous land managers, fire and forest scientists were resourced to come together with the community.

To add to the urgency of our situation, climate change is accelerating the risk fire poses to the Coast and other subtropical areas.

A paper published on Monday in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution states that climate change modelling projected a 20 to 50% increase in the number of days every year when conditions are conducive to extreme wildfire events in "disaster-prone landscapes" including forested areas of south-eastern Australia.

So climate change is making fires more intense and more frequent, and we can't avoid worsening odds that one day, a fire will affect each of us personally.

The world has passed a really scary critical turning point when it comes to the global climate, so the risk is unlikely to drop off.

In November last year scientists said there was no way we can stop the global temperature increasing to 7.36 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

That's catastrophic. It means flooding of low-lying islands, animal and plant extinctions, goodbye Great Barrier Reef.

As well as trying to slow climate change, we need to urgently plan how to adapt our way of life to the changed conditions.

The fires on the Coast in the last few months shook the sense of security many of us had in our highly populated region's ability to avoid fire - or at least withstand the worst of it.

I'll never forget the incredulous moment I saw an announcement that Coolum Surf Club had been opened as an evacuation centre for fleeing residents.

Until then I, like most people I imagine, saw the Coast as an inherently safe place.

For me, bushfires had an almost mythical quality. I saw my first as a toddler living in regional Victoria when Ash Wednesday killed 75 people and our street was "given up as lost", my mum says. Then the wind changed and we were saved.

In my 20s I arrived at university in Canberra just after bushfires had roared into suburbia, destroying homes, injuring 290 people and killing four.

I hope recent Coast fires spark a meaningful debate about how forests could be better managed for both ecology and reduced fire risk.