Australia –Tasmania’s bushfire threat this summer is similar to that which fuelled the 1967 Black Tuesday bushfires that killed 62 people, the state’s fire chief says.
Tasmania Fire Service chief officer Mike Brown says the state’s wettest winter in 50 years has grass and undergrowth growing at an alarming rate in many areas.
The fuel load, now being dried by hot and windy days, is much greater than it has been in recent years, he told reporters at Monday’s launch of the bushfire awareness season in Hobart.
More than 120 separate fire fronts scorched 264,000 hectares in southern Tasmania in February 1967, killing 62 people, injuring 900 and leaving more than 7,000 people homeless.
“It was a wet winter in 1966 and there was a lot of growth of the fuel prior to the 1967 situation,” Mr Brown said.
“So if the weather this season was to turn off the tap from now so to speak we could well be faced with conditions similar to the summer of 1967,” Mr Brown said.
This season’s awareness campaign involves Facebook and YouTube advertising as Tasmania adopts the new nationally-agreed Fire Danger Rating (FDR) scale.
It warns of the level of bushfire threat on any given day based on the forecast weather conditions and includes the new fire danger categories “severe” and “catastrophic”.
Emergency Management Minister Jim Cox said the new scale is one of a number of initiatives implemented following the Victorian bushfires in February this year to help save lives and prevent property loss.
Other initiatives include a national emergency warning system, the identification of community fire refuges and the introduction of bushfire warning alert levels, he told reporters at the launch.