You need a bloody good reason to want to die in a wildfire

As wildfires and bushfires intensify around the world, people are still dying trying to defend their homes. But should they?

Bushfire safety researcher Dr Jim McLennan, who used to work as a psychologist, puts it bluntly: “you need a bloody good reason to want to die in a bushfire.”

McLennan says even in a house built to withstand bushfires, and even with luck on your side, the risk of staying to fight a fire and defend a property is too high.

These are the questions Cosmos covered in its new podcast series, Debunks: Bushfires. Each week for six episodes Imma Perfetto, a journalist in the Cosmos newsroom, interviews experts in the field, guides listeners through the science of bushfires, and unpacks all the misinformation that comes with them.

If you missed out on the episodes so far, they’re available on your favourite podcast service. Here’s a selection to get you started!

Do hazard reduction burns work?

As the bushfire season intensifies in southern Australia, questions are flying about the best way to manage fires.

In the 1st episode of the season we explore hazard reduction burning: what are they and do they work? How long has fire been in the landscape? And is there anything else we can do to reduce the risk of bushfires?

Do I really have to leave when the bushfire rating is catastrophic?

Stay or go – what’s your plan on a catastrophic fire day?

Episode 2 explores the science behind bushfire danger ratings and answers the question: Do I really have to leave when the bushfire rating is catastrophic? We also get into the nitty gritty of what’s really involved in defending your home when bushfire conditions are at their most dangerous.

Can I fire-proof my home?

Can you build a house that is totally resistant to all bushfire fire damage? What about fire-proofing an existing building?

In the 3rd episode, Imma Perfetto interviews experts and a couple who lost their home during the Black Summer and rebuilt with fire in mind, on what’s involved in fire-proofing a home.

Who causes bushfires?

There are very few crimes that make people angrier in a bushfire season than arson. But how many bushfires are really started by arsonists?

Is arson really a more pressing issue than other things that influence bushfires – like climate change?

The 4th episode of this season of ‘Debunks’ explores the arson narrative: how we can tell what’s started a bushfire, what arsonists are like, and how concerned we really need to be.

Has Australia always had bushfires this bad?

In episode, we’re looking at Australia’s history and our future of fire. Has Australia always had bushfires this bad? Or is climate change making them worse?

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