Firestorm Across southern Australia, fire chiefs are anxiously waiting for the cool draughts of autumn to extinguish another stress-filled season of sparks, flare-ups and rushed responses. Until then, there is a clear and present threat of bushfire - and a nightmare scenario in which a routine blaze morphs into a conflagration so vast and intense that it becomes unstoppable.
As climate change brings extreme weather and sucks moisture from the land, experts are warning of a new age of megafires. Already, Canberra and Victoria have felt their fury. So too has North America and Europe.

"Megafires I think are going to become much more common," says a Victorian-based fire behaviour scientist. Another fire specialist warns that fire risk will more than double unless climate change slows.

A firefighting boss ticks off the numbers: 273 fires in Victoria on a single day in September, more than 600 in three days in October. "So the fire seasons are starting earlier, they're lasting longer and they include a large number more extreme fire weather days," he says.

How should we face the prospect of increasingly frequent megafires? Will firefighters have to change strategy? Bush firefighting services now are largely volunteer armies doing battle with an enemy that is erratic and dangerously unpredictable. Is there a need for elite commando-like teams to attack remote fires at the outset?

And how do we best manage the landscape to reduce fire risk? There is now a passionate debate over whether forests should be aggressively burnt during the cooler months as a fire prevention tool.

Includes exclusive material covering the MacIntyre hut fire.

00.02.48 Large fire in suburban neighbourhood, close up of flames in residential homes and in trees, firefighters hosing down the blaze

00.03.10 Australian firefighters discussing strategy with one another

00.03.34 Extreme weather- bikers struggling to stand in the high wind, car slipping off of icy road, huge waves crashing against tops of trees, lightning

00.03.48 Forest fire

00.04.19 Wheat in extreme heat, sun seen through trees with extreme heat

00.04.44 Helicopter dousing houses with water/flame retardant

00.04.52 Shack on fire, fire by side of road

00.05.0 Shots of the cedar fire in southern California, governor Gray Davis discusses casualties at a press conference

00.05.33 Aerial shot of Australian field, cloud cover

00.05.38 Firefighters hosing down burnt-out home

00.06.04 Black and white archival footage of a forest fire, presumably the Black Friday inferno; boys try to put it out with their shirts

00.06.25 People picking through the wreckage

0.07.10 Side of mountain on fire, large airplane/air carrier dropping red fire retardant (footage not cleared)

00.08.31 Helicopters hovering over river, causing ripples with propeller blades

00.08.40 Helicopter dropping water

00.08.56 Aerial shot of Australian city, possibly Canberra

00.10.01 More fire-fighters in 2003 Canberra bush fire

00.11.01 Woman crying at destruction

00.11.13 Aerials of Canberra observatory and water plant

00.11.39 Still of lightning strike

00.11.46 Brindabella National Park in smoke

00.12.07 Two men walking, talking by stream and forest

00.12.51 Lightning flashes over suburban homes

00.13.22 Man gestures to wall map of National Park

00.13.37 Firemen speaking to one another in office

00.14.18 CSRO Observers monitoring the fire, but failing to take action

00.14.56 Burnt out, fallen tree

00.16.18 Men sitting down in empty warehouse, industrial looking room

00.18.24 Footage of "backburns"- lighting strips of land to starve an ongoing fire of fuel

00.19.20 Helicopter flying overhead, stills of helicopters, including "the incredible hulk"

00.20.53 Australian mountains covered in smoke, helicopters fighting fire

00.22.37 Helicopter flying over the Goodradigbee river, yellow fire trucks attacking fire

00.23.18 Stills of Australian ranch home

00.23.38 Dramatic shots of red sky, firemen walking through smoke

00.23.50 Ruined homes on fire, with frames and beams exposed

00.28.12 Aerial of Australian suburb, with fire damage revealed occasionally

00.29.23 Scenic moving aerial of the Blue Mountains

00.29.47 Forest on fire, helicopter dropping flame retardant

00.31.39 Meeting of Australian officials to discuss repercussions of fire

00.32.24 Sunset over smoky valley, aerial shots of fire

00.35.0 Emergency coordination centre in Melbourne

00.39.23 Man driving pickup truck through forest

00.39.50 Scientists studying burnt tree

00.41.25 Land managers burning off scrub and fuel

00.42.15 Fire truck driving past forest

00.44.11 Helicopter flying overhead

00.45.34 Distant shot of fire on mountain, firefighters in foreground

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