WA bushfire guru tips perfect storm

WA bushfire guru tips perfect storm

24 December 2011

published by www.perthnow.com.au

Australia —  A MAJOR bushfire in WA where whole towns will be razed and many lives lost is imminent, Bushfire Front chairman Roger Underwood says.

Mr Underwood, a former general manager of the Department of Conservation and Land Management and a long-time advocate of prescribed burns, said decades of bushfire mismanagement had left WA vulnerable.

“Western Australia has suffered some horrible bushfires in the last five years,” he said. “But horrible as each of these fires were, there is worse to come.

“Everything points to the big one being not too far away. When it strikes, it will not just be 100 houses that are destroyed, but whole towns will be burned down, there will be catastrophic damage to social and economic infrastructure and many people will perish.

“Whatever the authorities do now will be too late, at least for this summer.”

In an exclusive column for tonight’s PerthNow iPad edition, Mr Underwood said a “perfect storm” of factors had put parts of WA in grave danger.

Mr Underwood said the state’s worst bushfire would be fuelled by gale-force winds from a cyclone off the North-West coast.

“On a day of 40 degrees, numerous fires will be started by lightning, or by accidents, powerlines or arsonists,” he said.

“Many small fires will be successfully contained by brave firefighters, but those burning in heavy fuels will still be ‘live’ when the wind goes into the North-West and reaches gale-force strength.

“This will lead to a fast-moving fire, running to the south, preceded by an ember storm and long-distance spotting.

“The trough along the west coast will then move inland and the wind will back into the west, turning eastern flanks into headfires.

Roads will be blocked by fallen powerlines and trees, power and water supplies will be lost and communication systems in meltdown.”

Mr Underwood said many fires would occur at once in the bushland subdivisions north and east of Perth or near Bunbury, Denmark or Albany.

“Small towns within South-West forests like Jarrahdale and Dwellingup and perhaps Collie, will almost certainly be in the firing line,” he said.

“Tree-change communities along the Avon River from Toodyay to Brookton are highly vulnerable.”

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