Media release

Firefighters face worsening wild, wet weather under climate change

FIREFIGHTERS in New South Wales and Queensland say they are rescuing more people from floods than ever before as scientists predict storms and flash flooding will only worsen under climate change.

Wild weather that thrashed Queensland and New South Wales over the weekend is now heading south, with Australian research showing climate change is causing shorter, more concentrated and intense storms leading to increased risk of flash flooding.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales analysed the data from 1300 rain gauges and 1700 temperature stations across Australia and found that flooding from more concentrated storms was up to 60% more likely due to climate change.

Analysis of the latest incidence data from emergency services in NSW and QLD reveals:

  • Firefighters in NSW attended 5579 storms, floods and other natural disasters in 2014-15, up almost 80% from the 3126 incidents recorded four years earlier[1];
  • Firefighters in QLD also recorded a jump in such incidents with more than 120 swift-water rescues or near drownings recorded in 2011, up 500% from the 20 recorded in 2005[2];
  • NSW SES volunteers carried out 122 flood rescues during the most recent storm season[3].

Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance spokesman Paul Gray said the influence of climate change on storms and rainfall was an under-researched area.

“Over the summer of 2010-11 firefighters in Queensland were briefed by the BOM well in advance of the storms that hit the state. Such forewarnings help us prepare, along with suitable training and resources.

“The question is: how much more severe might such events become under the influence of climate change? The research from NSW is an important addition to our understanding, but we still don’t know nearly enough about how such extreme weather events might alter into the future.”

In light of the latest modelling, Fire Brigade Employees Union president and acting state secretary Darin Sullivan said appropriate training and resourcing for swift-water had never been more important.

“As housing density increases across the eastern seaboard and climate change worsens storms and flash flooding the pressure on communities and emergency services will increase. It’s clear that action on climate change and increased funding into emergency services to deal with the damage already done is vital.”

Members of the public are urged to stay tuned for updated forecasts and warnings, follow the advice of local emergency services and not to drive, ride or walk through flood water.

For a copy of the research, or to speak to a firefighter contact Dinah on 0425 791 394 or via


[1] NSW Fire and Rescue 2014-15 and 2010-11 annual reports.

[2] QLD Fire and Emergency Services. More than 90% of the state was effected by storms and floods over the summer of 2010-11 resulting in a $6 billion damage bill.