FIREFIGHTERS have urged politicians to act on climate change as the country faces catastrophic fire warnings and unseasonal heatwaves.
The national secretary of the United Firefighters Union of Australia, Peter Marshall, said his members were at risk from more frequent and intense fires.
Mr Marshall was joined by a number of Canberra firefighters yesterday in delivering the message. He said his colleagues were on the ''frontline'' of climate change.
He called on politicians to pass the Government's proposed emissions trading scheme during a Senate vote next week - but with stronger measures.
''We are the ones who are … confronted by these particular types of fires, and we're telling you they are more severe and they are more frequent,'' he said. ''We are having to confront fires like we have not seen before, frequency of fires that we have not seen before.''
The first ''catastrophic'' rating under the new fire warning regime - in Adelaide this week - had come early in the season.
''All the science is on target to say this is going to happen more frequently, and when [politicians] are making a decision, put aside your partisan politics and [consider] what is best for the community that elected you,'' Mr Marshall warned.
Members of the firefighters union travelled to Canberra yesterday to deliver the message, driving a vintage fire truck around Parliament House to raise awareness.
The chief executive of the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, Gary Morgan, said climate change would mean annual fire seasons would start earlier than in previous decades.
He also said climate change would create hotter and drier conditions and fires would be intensified by increased winds as weather patterns were altered.
''Climate change not only threatens firefighters' safety,'' Mr Morgan said, ''but also every member of the community.''
He said that a combination of extended drought, low rainfall over winter and heavy fuel loads meant Australia was facing its worst fire season in history.