Fire seasons more extreme

Fire seasons more extreme

4 January 2008

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Australia — Victoria is facing a high-risk and aggressive bushfire season that could last as late as April, fire authorities have warned.

They say it will be longer than last year’s fire season, during which more than 1.1 million hectares was burnt in the state’s north-east and Gippsland.

The chief fire officer for the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Ewan Waller, said climate change was causing longer and more extreme fire seasons.

“The pattern across the Western world is that fire seasons are starting earlier and going longer, due to climate change,” he said. “We are expecting that to happen this time, we are planning for at least March even April.”

The warning came as firefighters battled to contain eight fires started by lightning in East Gippsland before high fire risk weather returns tomorrow.

Three fires remained out of control last night. These a 270-hectare fire at Mount Hagan, south of Buchan. It is expected to spread over 700 hectares by tomorrow.

Firefighters are putting all their efforts into taking advantage of “a window of opportunity” that exists until tomorrow when temperatures are set to soar again.

Meanwhile, the Snowy River National Park fire jumped from 20 hectares to 30 hectares.

Elvis, the Americane water-bombing helicopter was called in to douse the northern edge of a fire at Mount Victoria, north-west of Buchan. Acting Premier Rob Hulls yesterday warned Victorians not to let recent rainfall make them complacent. He said grass that had grown as a result of the pre-Christmas rain could act as fuel when it dried. The Country Fire Authority said it was concerned about the increased risk of lightning tomorrow.

Earlier this week, a CFA volunteer was killed in Gippsland while using a bulldozer for firefighting work.

In Perth, meanwhile, bushfires last night destroyed five homes in the outer eastern suburbs. Emergency services said at least 30 houses were at risk.

Fire also destroyed a number of outhouses, burning out more than 650 hectares and killing up to 100 sheep and other animals.

This follows the death earlier this week of three truck drivers in a fire that engulfed the Great Eastern Highway.

It is believed that the fire may have been deliberately lit. Arson investigators have been able to rule out a natural cause for the fire and believe it was either lit by a firebug or accidentally sparked by a person.

Sunday’s unpredictable wind gusts forced the blaze to double back over its starting point, destroying much of the evidence.

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