Australia — Australia is on the brink of a horror bushfire season, a bushfire expert has warned.
With the Bureau of Meteorology reporting the hottest, driest August on record, these extreme conditions, teamed with a severe drought across most of the country, is posing a major threat to people living in bush areas, Kevin O’Loughlin from the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre, in Melbourne, said today.
Mr O’Loughlin said the massive fires, which blazed across NSW at the weekend – combined with bad fires in Victoria last week and the 200 fires already reported in Tasmania this month – could be a taste of things to come.
“Just looking at what we’ve seen already, this is a major concern,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
“It’s a major concern that fire seasons seem to be starting earlier and lasting longer.
“We’ve got to get a greater understanding on this, on the frequency of fires, the earlier start to the season and if there’s any connection to climate change.”
Mr O’Loughlin said the dangers were heightened by the increasing number of people living in areas at risk of bushfire.
“If you’re talking about the driest August on record and the warmest August on record and you set that against a period of drought, then you would have to be concerned that this could be a bad fire season,” Mr O’Loughlin said.
“The agencies, no doubt, will be taking precautions and would be stressing that people who lived in properties at risk of bushfires make very, very serious preparations for potentially a very bad season.”
Meanwhile, Victorian Environment Minister John Thwaites said 200 seasonal firefighters – more than the usual number – were being hired and were starting work one month earlier this year to help prepare for the fire season.
“We have been doing fuel reduction burning and seeking to do it earlier, but the conditions are so dry and so adverse that we’re already having to wind down fuel reduction burning,” Mr Thwaites told reporters.
Firefighters were now in the process of building trails and fire breaks in key areas.
“We are very concerned that this summer will be one of our worst bushfire risks ever.
“The state is extremely dry. We’ve had 10 years of below-average rainfall. Areas like the Otways and the Dandenongs, which weren’t burnt in the 2003 fires, are particularly atrisk.”