Since the 1957 fires, more and more people have made the Blue Mountains their home. The chart below displays the increasing population of the Blue Mountains local government area (LGA) as well as the townships from Wentworth Falls to Blackheath.
As can be expected, with this increase in population has come an increase in dwellings. The chart displays increases in dwellings for the Blue Mountains local government area and the townships from Wentworth Falls to Blackheath.
Increases in population and dwellings in the Blue Mountains increase the potential for loss of life and property at the hands of a fire, especially as development extends into the urban‐bushland interface. Because there are a lot more houses and people in the Blue Mountains now than there were in 1957, there is potential for fires much worse than the 1957 disaster (Cunningham 1984).
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH 2012) also notes the challenge that a significant expansion of the rural‐urban population exposed to bushfire impacts means for community protection.
The current age structure is also different to that of the Blue Mountains in 1957. The graph below displays the percentage of Blue Mountains residents by age cohorts for the years 1961 and 2011.
The Blue Mountains population of 1961 was largely under 35, and featured higher percentages of children. Today’s population is largely over 35, and an ageing population brings unique challenges regarding fire preparation. While some may be knowledgeable because of recent experience with fire, others may not be able to prepare, either physically or financially. Still, some newly‐arrived “tree changers” may not appreciate the fire‐prone nature of the Blue Mountains.
The ageing of the Blue Mountains population is of concern because in general, the elderly are a cohort particularly vulnerable to bushfire (OEH 2012). New arrivals to the mountains may not appreciate the risk of fire, and in some cases may not be aware that their block had been burnt in the past.
The figure below colour‐codes areas of the mountains based on the percentage of people who have changed address in the five years up to the 2011 census. Deeper reds indicate a higher number of residents that moved between 2006‐2011. For most areas denoted on the map between Wentworth Falls and Blackheath, over a third of residents moved between 2006‐2011. In south‐east Leura, over half of residents moved between 2006‐2011.
Cunningham, C. J. (1984) Recurring natural fire hazards: a case study of the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia. Applied Geography 4:5-27.
Cunningham, C. J. 1998. ‘Fire History of the Blue Mountains’. In Jocelyn Powell (ed) The Improvers’ Legacy: Environmental Studies of the Hawkesbury. Sydney: Deerubbin Press pp 39-49.
OEH (2012) Living with Fire in NSW National Parks: A strategy for managing bushfires in national parks and reserves 2012-2021. Office of Environment and Heritage: Sydney South. Available at http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/firemanagement/120690LiveFire.pdf
Links and further information
Census statistics compiled from historical Australian census data that may be accessed at: http://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/censushome.nsf/home/historicaldata?opendocument&navpos=280
Some of the above information was also accessed through the interactive Community Atlas and Community Profile compiled by Blue Mountains City Council. Accessible at: http://www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/sustainableliving/populationprofileandforecast