NSW faces higher bushfire risk: RFS

NSW faces higher bushfire risk: RFS

1 December 2008

published by news.theage.com.au

Australia –Summer in NSW will be wetter in the north, hotter in the south, with a higher bushfire risk than last year, the weather bureau and firefighters say.

On the first day of summer, the Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a wetter than average summer for northern NSW, which is bad news for flood-affected towns near the Queensland border.

The northern NSW regions of Gunnedah Shire and Tamworth have been declared natural disaster zones following weekend floods, with massive clean-up operations under way.

Climatologist Perry Wiles said there was a 60 per cent chance of above average rainfall for the northeast corner, with dryer conditions in the drought-ravaged south of the state.

With increased rainfall, temperatures will ease in the north, but closer to the Victorian border the mercury is likely to soar.

“As you move towards the southwest, the chances of above average temperatures go up quite dramatically and we get a 65 per cent chance of above average temperatures in the border areas with Victoria,” Mr Wiles said.

Sydney would have a wetter, and perhaps cooler, summer than usual, he said.

“We’ve been having a run of above average temperatures (in Sydney), and that may continue, but with increased rain that we’ve seen the temperatures won’t be so far above average,” he said.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) has predicted a bad NSW bushfire season, particularly in the south, after a relatively quiet season last summer.

Much of the state remains drought-declared, worrying firefighters, RFS Assistant Commissioner Rob Rogers said.

“We’re obviously quite concerned about the southern part of the state, and I think that the underlying thing is NSW has more than 62 per cent of the state still in drought, and 17 per cent is marginal,” he said.

“We’ve already got underlying dryness in the majority of the state, and therefore a traditional fire season would be a serious concern.”

With a wetter summer predicted for the top half of the state, the RFS is concerned complacency may set in.

“We wouldn’t like to think that because people have seen some rain that it is not going to be a bad summer. This could all turn around in a week and we could be in fire instead of flood,” he said.

“When you start getting 30-odd degree days and up to 40, it really doesn’t take a lot of time to dry the whole thing out.”

On Monday, police in Sydney launched their summer crackdown on car hoons, drunks and anti-social behaviour.

Assistant Commissioner Catherine Burn said police would not tolerate anti-social behaviour “whether it be alcohol, drug or traffic-related” as Sydneysiders celebrate Christmas and New Year.

“Police want people to enjoy themselves, but no one wants to have their celebrations ruined by other people’s bad behaviour,” she said.

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