As Canberra shivered through it’s driest winter in 37 years and the soil continued to harden after less than average rainfall over the past two years, experts believe that bushfire seasons will become longer and more dangerous as the effects of climate change are felt across the country.
It is these statistics that have local firefighters concerned across the territory as the ACT’s official start to the bushfire season begins today.
ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Joe Murphy said Canberra is faced with hotter and drier conditions than previous years.
“There has been no rain,” Chief Officer Murphy said. “We had 10 mm the other week which we don’t really count. It probably pushed away the elevated fire danger for a couple of weeks but besides that, we are back to very dry conditions.
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“The Bureau is predicting the next three months to be very dry and very sparse with rain so we can expect to see the landscape continue to dry out and the local dams continue to dry.
“We have seen in northern NSW and Queensland that the fire season is well and truly underway and it will come down south and be here before we know it.”
Chief Officer Murphy said 2019’s conditions are very similar to last year’s but there has been a “step-up” in the dryness.
“We have seen a further drying out of the landscape and there is less moisture in the soil than there was last year,” he said.
“We need about 200 mm of rain but we want that over a number of months, but the Bureau has said there is no chance of that happening in the next three months.”
ACT Minister for Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said hundreds of thousands of acres have been prepared with burns and strategic grazing as part of the ACT Emergency Service Agency’s strategic bushfire management, but now it is time for the community to prepare.
“Now is the best time for Canberrans to prepare,” Mr Gentleman said. “People living in bushfire-prone areas should download a Bushfire Survival Plan from the ESA website, fill it in and have a discussion with their family about what they will do in the event of a fire.
“Our services are all well prepared for the season and we want Canberrans to be well prepared as well.”
You can check if you live in a bushfire prone area, see bushfire danger levels and warnings, get fact sheets and view the new management plan by clicking here.