Alert on growing fire risk

Alert on growing fire risk

 20 October 2007

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Australia — Victoria faces an extreme fire risk thissummer, with Melbourne ringed by tinder-dry national parks.

The ash forests of the Otways and Yarra, Brisbane and Strzelecki ranges havenot burned for 50 years, but the Department of Sustainability and Environmentsays they all face danger this year.

DSE fire and emergency management chief officer Ewan Waller said theGrampians were also at risk, as well as areas around Bendigo.

Increasing the danger, drought conditions meant the availability of water tofight bushfires was scarce.

CFA chief officer Russell Rees said fire restrictions would be enforced up tothree weeks early this year because of the dry conditions.

“We can expect some fire danger periods in late October and earlyNovember,” he said.

“We are facing a very severe fire season. The reality is we will havevery severe grass fires, and people need to get ready and prepare for that.”

Conditions last summer — when one man died and more than 1.1 millionhectares were burnt — were described as worse than those that led to the 1983Ash Wednesday fires, in which 47 people were killed in Victoria.

The risk is similar this year.

“We did get a couple of months of average rainfall and that was betterthan last year, but it spurred on grass and shrub growth so particularly in thegrass lands it has added fuel where it wasn’t there last year,” Mr Wallersaid.

“The fire situation is very worrying in the west and north of the state.”

Mr Waller urged people to work with their local CFA to make a fire plan.

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