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Australia will be on fire again in five months. We cannot let history repeat itself.

In September 2019, the worst fire season in Australia’s history began. 

For six months we lived under a blanket of orange smog and terror, as every single state and territory in our wide brown land went up in flames, killing 34 people, 18 million hectares of land, 5,900 buildings, and an estimated billion animals.

As we reached early March and celebrated the news that all fires had been extinguished, we thought it would be the nation’s defining event of 2019/2020.

WATCH: It’s not too early to prepare a bushfire survival plan. Post continues after video.

Video by NSW RFS

Then COVID-19 took over our lives. And the spotlight moved from readying our country for future bushfire attacks to trying to save life as we know it from a deadly virus.

It’s hard to have room in our hearts for more than one disaster, especially when the current one is destroying lives, livelihoods and economies at such a rapid and all-encompassing rate.

But the truth remains that in less than six months time, our country will likely go up in flames again.

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We lost 34 lives to bushfires during the 2019/20 season. We don't want to see those numbers repeated. Image: Facebook.
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We cannot forget the lessons we learnt over Christmas and New Year. 

Fortunately, while we are all focused on the coronavirus pandemic, there are scientists and officials working feverishly behind the scenes.

Fire-prediction technologies that will enable firefighters to work faster and more safely when the next season inevitably hits us are being tested and finessed.

Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), has developed computer software called Spark, which improves upon a program already in use that predicts the spread of a fire over a given area.

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The bushfires seem like a lifetime ago, but they only ended in March. Image: Getty.

Spark is basically a more intuitive and reliable version, and according to Simon Heemstra, the manager of planning and predictive services at the NSW Rural Fire Service, it could very well be "the next evolutionary step in firefighting models," reports the New York Times.

There's also a chance that drones will be able to be used to help predict where fires are going to start.

The Times reports NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has been exploring, with the CSIRO, the possibility of testing artificial intelligence for drones, rovers and satellites (intended for future space exploration) on the fires.

The software would need to be able to withstand the heat of a fire, which is what they're looking into right now.

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The University of Melbourne is also hoping to begin trials within the next year on the Fire Regime Operations Simulation Tool (FROST), a new simulation tool that aims to predict fire behaviour.

The obvious elephant in the room is climate change - without significant action on that, Australia's bushfires will continue to destroy.

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As our climate gets hotter and land drier, we're being warned our bushfire seasons will keep getting longer and more ferocious. Image: Getty.

On April 20, a group of bushfire survivors launched a legal challenge seeking to compel the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) to act on climate change to protect communities from catastrophic fires.

A six-month independent expert inquiry into the causes, preparation and response to the bushfires is currently underway in NSW,

The Australia-wide Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements has also begun its hearings in Canberra, with an aim to hand down its findings before the next bushfire season.

There will always be more to do - more money, more attention, more action, and more focus needed - and right now the country is understandably preoccupied with the pandemic.

But the time will come when we'll need to shift our national focus and pour all of our efforts as a community back into protecting our country from fire. In the meantime, we can take solace in the fact there are many people pushing on behind the scenes, working hard to prepare our country for its next battle.

Feature image: Getty.

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