Fire authorities warn of severe bushfire season

The Seasonal Bushfire Outlook helps fire authorities plan for spring and summer.



The report, by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre, says most of Victoria, eastern New South Wales and a large part of Western Australia have a higher than normal chance of bushfires this season.


Smaller parts of Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are also affected.


Research Centre spokesman Richard Thornton says it’s because of a dry decade.


“A lot of that is being driven by a long-term rainfall deficit over the past ten years or so which is driving very dry subsoils.”


Greg Nettleton of the South Australian Country Fire Service explains what that means for firefighters.


“It doesn’t say there’ll be more fires it just says that the likelihood is because it’s drier it’ll be easier for fires to start and once they start they’ll be a bit more difficult than normal to put out.”


Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, Craig Lapsley, is warning people to prepare early.


“We can’t do it without the community, it’s a shared responsibility (is) fire, it’s a very important resonsibility and hence that’s why this early warning in spring allows people to start to think and build it into their plans about what they need to do.”


WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Graham Swift is doing the same.


“In Western Australia we are again encouraging the community to undertake their preparations as early as possible particularly now in the cooler period we’re anticipating an early start to our fire season.”


In New South Wales, Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons also warned the state to prepare.


He’s welcomed a new arrival to the state’s bushfire fighting arsenal: a C-130 Hercules plane called Thor [tor] that can carry a staggering amount of water.


“A highly sophisticated water delivery system on board the machine. Smart technology, as they refer to it, capable of delivering all 15 thousand litres in one go or it can deliver portions of that load as it comes in, turns around, does another sweep another bit, another bit, and so on.”


The Bureau of Meteorology’s John Nairn warns the current El Nino, typically associated in Australia with drier conditions, could be the worst on record.


“This is a very large El Nino it’s going to challenge 1997 which was our largest El Nino we ever saw.”

But he says its effect is unpredictable at this stage because the Indian Ocean is warming too.


Richard Thornton, from the Research Centre, says that complicates things.

“And that, in usual conditions without an El Nino, would drive wetter and cooler conditions. So we’ve got both effects happening at the same time at the moment so it’s not as clear as a typical El Nino year. Over the next few months we’ll be keeping an eye on which one of those two wins out.”