Australia — The bushfire season starts in the ACT and NSW on Wednesday, with the remainder of the year likely to be hotter than usual in the local region.
Blustery warm conditions at the weekend still two months from the start of summer have authorities urging householders to start preparing their homes now for the increasing risk of fire.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s national outlook for October to December suggests there is a 70 to 75per cent chance the ACT and southern NSW will experience above-average maximum temperatures.
The chance of above-average rain in the ACT for the three months is only a 50-50 prospect, with below-average rain also just as likely.
Firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service were attending bushfires in the Lake Macquarie area of the Hunter Valley and the Guy Fawkes River National Park in the north of the state yesterday.
NSW Rural Fire Service assistant commissioner (operations) Rob Rogers said a ”traditional” bushfire season was likely this year.
That meant more activity, including some big fires, were expected compared with last season when the La Nina weather pattern, which typically meant better prospects for rain, had some moderating influence.
”We sort of prepare for the worst, but we don’t have any indications it’s going to be an horrendous year,” Mr Rogers said.
”But even in the more traditional year, all you need is the wrong fire on the wrong day and you can have a huge fire [that will] impact significantly on property.
”It doesn’t need a really bad fire season for us to have really bad fires.”
ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Gregor Manson said the territory was ”well prepared” for the bushfire season, but how serious it became all depended on the weather.
”The fire authorities across NSW, ACT and Victoria will be concerned about a summer season which is likely to be hot, continuing dry with little prospect of any significant relief from those conditions,” he said.
”From the ACT’s perspective, our preparations are very well advanced for the season.”
Two firefighting helicopters one medium and one light would arrive in Canberra in November.
Two Skycranes would be based in Sydney, but ”available to the Canberra region based on need”.
”There’s been a number of small grass fires already in the region, so that’s a good indicator that conditions are dry,” Mr Manson said.
The bushfire season runs from October1 to March31.
The bureau also says neutral conditions will continue in relation to the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, with neither the drying El Nino nor the wetter La Nino weather events likely to occur before the end of 2008.
Canberra Airport has received 292.2mm of rain this year, which is less than for the same time last year, when 348.6mm was recorded.
Mr Manson said while last season was hot, it was not overly windy, which had helped the firefighting effort.
”We’re predicting a similar pattern this year, so hopefully we won’t have too many of those extended 48 to 50-hour wind patterns which cause us significant concern.
”We like those nice easterlies coming in in the evening,” he said.
Mr Manson said residents should start preparing their homes now.
”People should be tidying up their yards, cleaning their gutters, making sure they’ve got their home action plan in place,” he said.
During the bushfire season, members of the public and landholders are banned from lighting fires, burning off or starting a campfire or bonfire unless they have a written permit from the ACT Rural Fire Service or the ACT Fire Brigade.