Australia — Victoria faces another horror bushfire season this summer with scant spring rain and warm weather continuing to dry out forests.
Forecasters have warned crippling drought conditions across the state could mean a severe shortage of available water to douse the flames.
More than one million hectares were razed, 37 homes damaged or destroyed and one volunteer firefighter killed in last season’s bushfires, which burned for more than 50 days.
Wangaratta long-range weather forecaster John Moore said there was still uncertainty for the coming months.
He said Victoria needed at least 200-300mm of rainfall to sufficiently dampen the undergrowth and boost water supplies, but there was little chance of that.
“The areas that have been burnt will be fairly safe because winter has been too dry for a lot of growth,” he said.
“But there are still areas of forest, particularly closer into Melbourne, that could be of concern.
“Because everything will be so dry it will be very flammable and the availability of water to put fires out is going to be quite limited, particularly in country areas.”
Despite Mr Moore’s predictions, the Department of Sustainability and Environment remains tight-lipped about its predictions for this fire season, saying it will await advice from the weather bureau next month before issuing appropriate warnings.
However preparations for the fire season have begun with the Government to announce today the recruitment of 500 seasonal summer firefighters to the Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Environment Minister Gavin Jennings and Emergency Services Minister Bob Cameron will launch the preparations today.
More than 1000 people have already applied for the positions and the number of jobs could be increased if the fire season worsens.
Victoria’s aerial firefighting arm — including Erikson aircrane Elvis — will be aided by three mobile tankers to refuel aircraft at the fire.
Mr Jennings said preparations for summer had begun with spring fuel reduction burns about to start.