WITH the bushfire season officially upon us, Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) is reminding Gold Coasters to ‘Get Ready’ and be prepared for an anticipated above average fire season.
QFES Commissioner Lee Johnson said there is likelihood that 2014 will be a longer than normal bushfire season for the state.
“According to the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, Queensland is likely to have an above average fire season this year as there is a 50 percent chance of El Nino weather patterns starting in September,” Mr Johnson said.
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“This weather pattern would mean above average temperatures and below average winter/spring rainfall which would result in increased grass and forest fuel loads.
“During the last El Nino weather event in 2009, there were 16,000 vegetation fires, a 30 percent increase compared to the 12,500 fires we see in an average season.
“If an El Nino event does occur this bushfire season, we could potentially see increased fire danger periods, increased fire incidents and an extended fire season,” he said.
For the first time in Queensland, QFES will be equipped with a new form of technology called Phoenix, a world class fire behaviour modelling program that captures the nature of a bushfire as it spreads across the landscape.
As a bushfire spreads, Phoenix captures characteristics such as flame height, intensity, size and ember density, turning the information into a data set that can then be displayed in Google Earth.
“The program was developed by Melbourne University with funding from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre and is already being used operationally in Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales.”
Mr Johnson said QFES would be using Phoenix as another ‘tool’ staff and volunteers could access during a bushfire incident, alongside the wide range of tools already available.
“Fire behaviour analysts can run projections on bushfire incidents using Phoenix, in addition to their own projections, to compare findings and provide enhanced intelligence to fire managers at the scene,” Mr Johnson said.
“The adoption of Phoenix in Queensland is an important step in ensuring QFES is the most equipped it can be for the upcoming bushfire season.”
Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services Jack Dempsey said continued vigilance was needed to reduce the risk of severe bushfires this year.
“As part of our strong plan for a brighter and safe future for Queensland families we launched Operation Cool Burn in April. Since then QFES and various government and private land fire management stakeholders have burnt in excess of 421,000 hectares of land with more than 4,900 hazard reduction burns recorded so far,” Mr Dempsey said.
“Our RFSQ brigades have taken steps to ensure they are well trained and equipped to help their communities throughout the season, however they still need assistance from residents to prepare for a potentially busy bushfire season this year.
“Being prepared and planning what you will do if you are affected by a bushfire could be the difference between life and death.”
Residents are urged to visit www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au and download a bushfire survival plan as part of their preparation for the bushfire season.