QUEENSLANDERS are being warned to prepare for a long and busy bushfire season.
According to the Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, released today by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, this year’s season is tipped to start earlier and finish later.
The report – which covers Queensland, the NT, northern parts of WA and, for the first time, northern SA – predicts above normal fire potential along the Queensland coast between Rockhampton and the NSW border.
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Manager of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Predictive Services Unit Andrew Sturgess warns some parts of the sunshine state are likely to experience heightened fire risk over the coming months.
“The analysis we’ve undertaken indicates increased bushfire potential in forested areas around Rockhampton down to the New South Wales border, including parts of south-east Queensland,” Mr Sturgess said.
“It shows higher fire potential for areas throughout the central-west and south-west of the state, areas that recently had their first decent rain in a very long time.
“Across these parts there is now grass and vegetation growth where there has been none for a number of years, and with that comes a higher chance of fires.”
As a result, authorities are urging residents to finalise their bushfire preparations.
The Outlook last year predicted above normal fire potential for areas along Queensland’s Central Coast, Whitsundays and the Capricornia – areas that experienced unprecedented bushfires in November and December.
The report found these fires were the result of long term climate drivers, with a lack of rainfall along the coast leading to drier soils and hotter temperatures combined with a series of low pressure systems driving a strong westerly air flow.
“These systems brought hot dry winds from central Australia right to the Queensland coast and resulted in record temperatures and forest fire danger indices,” the report said.
“The fire danger rating reached Catastrophic on the afternoon of 28 November in parts of Queensland, the first time the Catastrophic rating had been recorded in the state.”
This year, below average soil moisture is expected to increase the available fuel load in forested areas in the southeast, while there is a heightened chance of above average vegetation growth in grass and woodland areas.
QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said while conditions were not yet looking the same as the 2018-19 season, authorities were preparing for the worst.
Mr Wassing said crews have been out in force as part of Operation Cool Burn, preparing for the upcoming season, and has urged Queenslanders to do the same at home.
“The current rainfall and temperature outlooks show an increased likelihood of warmer and dryer conditions during the bushfire season,” he said.
“With this foresight, we encourage the community to work with us proactively to mitigate potential risk and to prepare their homes and properties.
“People should familiarise themselves with bushfire warnings and where to access important information they may need during emergencies.”
Mr Sturgess said all households should have a current Bushfire Survival Plan and everyone should know what to do in an emergency.
“Preparation is the key to ensuring people stay safe during a bushfire,” he said.
“We want everyone to have a plan, to know when they will leave their homes and where they will go, to consider the best route to take, the items they will need in their emergency kits.
“Now is the time for people to prepare, to clean up around the house and yard, for people to ensure they have quality fire breaks around their homes and assets.
“The work we all do now can make a real difference during fire season.”
Visit www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au for more bushfire safety information.