15 August 2017

RFS urges public to fire up on bushfire plans after dry winter

| Ian Bushnell
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The ACT’s fire services are urging residents, especially on Canberra’s urban fringe and in rural areas, to prepare for the coming bushfire season, now only seven weeks away.

ACT Rural Fire Service Operations acting manager Rohan Scott said that after a dry winter the Australian Bureau of Meteorology outlook had warned of an elevated fire danger risk for the season, usually declared in October.

He said fuel loads were dryer than normal and the bureau had forecast more days would be dryer and hotter than average.

At Canberra Airport in July there was 17mm of rain, and in June just 2.4mm fell.

Mr Scott said the service always prepared for the worst case scenario and had done everything it could to be ready.

He said the public should do likewise by cleaning out gutters, mowing lawns, trimming back trees near their houses, and ensuring they had their Bushfire Survival Plan in place.

“The big thing is the Bushfire Survival Plan,” Mr Scott said. “Work out now what you’re going to do – either stay and defend or relocate early. It’s too late to do it once a fire starts.”

He said the plan should be shared with family and neighbours so they knew what you were doing.

Mr Scott said spring rain could also present a challenge with high grass growth leading to potential grassfires when it cured in the summer sun.

Mr Scott said horse owners and those with agistment properties needed to be aware of this threat and properly prepared.

“It’s a Catch 22 situation – we need rain but not too much. If we had 100mm every month between now and Christmas we’d be very happy,” he said.

Minister for Planning and Land Management, Mick Gentleman, said 95.9 per cent of ACT Parks and Conservation’s 2016-17 Bushfire Operations Plan (BOP) had been completed.

The Minister said 12 prescribed burns had been conducted across 516 hectares focusing on grasslands and the urban edge area.

He said 6,041 hectares were under strategic grazing across the outer edge of residential areas, while there had been 4,733 hectares of slashing in urban areas.

Fuel had been removed from 542 hectares and there had been 437 kilometres of fire trail maintenance.

Mr Gentleman said three new light unit fire fighting vehicles would boost the ACT’s firefighting capacity and portable weather stations would enhance fire forecasting.

“A particularly interesting new component is the deployment of four remotely located portable weather stations that provide government and the Bureau of Meteorology with accurate and reliable real-time weather data in locations that are directly relevant to fire forecasting and operations,” Mr Gentleman said.

He said the establishment of a smoke management project with the Bureau of Meteorology, the Victorian Government and ACT Health should lead to earlier and more accurate smoke forecasts.

Mr Gentleman said some prescribed burns and track maintenance were postponed due to bad weather.

“Conditions last autumn in Namadgi were initially too dry and then rapidly turned too wet which limited opportunities for some larger planned burns,” he said.

More information on Bushfire Survival Plans can be found here.

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