Australia — If you think Victoria’s floodwaters have warded off the spectre of a bushfire season, think again, the Country Fire Authority has warned.
Swan Hill residents remain on edge as floodwaters continue to creep slowly towards the Murray River town, while locals in surrounding communities face being isolated for weeks.
About 400 local CFA members have turned their skills to helping rural communities and State Emergency Service crews with sandbagging and protecting properties and will now move to assist flood-affected towns with clean-up and recovery efforts. Advertisement: Story continues below
Several brigades that received help during the Black Saturday bushfires from teams in northern and northwest parts of the state have now returned assistance to affected communities battling floodwaters.
But CFA chief Euan Ferguson says firefighters will soon need to be rested as waters recede and significant fuel loads dry out.
“We do have substantial grass fuel loads, particularly in the northern and western parts of the state,” he told AAP.
“We need to start resting our people, making sure our trucks are fixed up, ready to go firefighting again.”
Fuel loads reaching widespread peak dryness before this month’s heavy rainfall are now expected to produce green shoots.
But hot weather, particularly hot, dry winds, could see the green shoots dry off “very quickly”, Mr Ferguson said.
“We could go from a situation where we’re doing floods today to one where we could feasibly be fighting quite aggressive grassfires in two to three weeks’ time,” he said.
The fire chief urged people living in bushfire-prone areas to clear long grass and fuel loads away from their homes.
“We’ve got still another six to eight weeks of peak summer left,” Mr Ferguson said.
“We don’t want people to be complacent because of the flood situation.”