Are these fires unprecedented? Possibly so this early in the season.
Do these fires reflect human induced climate change so far? Almost certainly.
Were the weather conditions particularly bad? Not so far, compared with Black Saturday in Vic.
Would a massively expanded burning program have prevented house loss? Maybe, but with costs and side effects; including more accidental fire damage to property
Does the number of houses burnt reflect ferocity of the fires? Not particularly.
What does it reflect? The terrible landscape position of most housing on ridge tops above steep slopes and the extremely high flammability of Blue Mountains vegetation growing in a high rainfall, but very infertile, region.
Is there anything that can be done by the householder from a permaculture perspective?
Lots. Most importantly, unattended houses were between 3 and 8 time more likely to burn than attended (Blanchi & Leonard Bushfire CRC) In other words, residents who stay and defend, have a high chance of saving a house (and a very high chance of survival even if the house burns because almost all houses burn after the fire front has passed).
The picture above (from ABC website) is one of the many houses burnt during the recent fire showing the relatively unscarred native vegetation around the remains after a very hot house (rather than bush) fire. Bushfires do not in general demolish houses. Instead they create an ember storm that accumulates around the house and most importantly enters the roof space leading to ignition and intense fire in undefended houses (mostly after the fire front has passed).
Here are some of the resources on our website for building up bushfire resilience for both your house and community at large.
From our online shop, the following publications have ample information on the subject.
The Complete Bushfire Safety Book by Joan Webster
The Essential Bushfire Safety Tips by Joan Webster
The following resources may also be of your interest.
Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (report 2009)
Bushfire Resilient Communities and Landscapes (presentation in the Blue Mountains 2011)