New fire season comes with new risks

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ACT fire season starts on Sunday (November 1) with an increased risk in grass fires. Photo: Nathan Schmidt.

CONSISTENT rain has postponed the start of the ACT fire season to Sunday (November 1) but it’s also increased the risk of grass fires, said ACT Rural Fire Service acting chief officer Rohan Scott when he launched the bushfire season this morning. 

The fire season which usually starts in October was pushed back this year after rain brought on by the onset of La Niña dulled conditions, Mr Scott said. 

“Our grass fire risk this year is significant. Just drive around the ACT already, we’ve got good high growth,” he said. 

Grass fires are particularly dangerous as they’re fast moving and wind driven, he said.

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman… “The ESA will be placing several vehicles out of their traditional rural sheds and into strategically placed locations around Canberra during high-risk periods.” Photo: Nathan Schmidt.

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said new grass cover across the territory has meant fire services will face a “different scenario” this fire season. 

While rain is likely to continue into November and December, conditions will likely start to dry out with recent grass growth becoming a risk, he said. 

“The ESA will be placing several ACTRFS (rural fire service) vehicles out of their traditional rural sheds and into strategically placed locations around Canberra during high-risk periods,” Mr Gentleman said. 

But, the prospect of forest fires has not been ruled out completely, with Mr Scott saying many areas north of the Tidbinbilla range were unaffected by last year’s fires.

“The reduction of the risk is there, but there is still a chance if we get some drying days that we could still have forest fires, particular near the end of the season,” he said. 

ACT ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan. Photo: Nathan Schmidt

ACT Emergency Services commissioner Georgeina Whelan used the launch to call on the community to prepare for the bushfire season and warned against complacency.

“We know the risk this year will be quite different to what it’s been in previous years but the strong message we do want to send the community, which is reinforcing the message from last year, [is] don’t be alarmed but do be alert, do not be complacent,” said commissioner Whelan.

Homeowners are encouraged to complete bushfire survival plans while rural landowners are reminded that a permit will be needed for any fire hazard reduction or pile burning during fire season, and to compile their own fire safety plans. 

Canberrans can download a fire safety plan at the Emergency Service Australia website, as well as the Fires Near Me NSW app.

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