LATE AUGUST saw the launch of the Australian Season Bushfire Outlook 2019.
Held as part of the Australian Fire and Emergency Management Conference at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, Emergency Management leaders from across the country gathered to launch the report, which was compiled by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Dr Richard Thornton, CEO of the Bushfire CRC gave an overview of the outlook for the whole continent, and said this year we will see that a lot of the activity, particularly in the east, is dominated by both an increased average temperature and a decline in rainfall.
Dr David Jones of the Bureau of Meteorology said the coming summer will be a challenging fire season in terms of the fire weather.
“We anticipate an early start and a long season, certainly based on the climatic conditions we have in place at the moment, he said.
Victoria’s Commissioner for Emergency Services, Andrew Crisp said this year would be a fairly similar picture to last year, citing particularly bad weather across Gippsland and the Alpine areas.
“We are more likely to see protracted and campaign fires which is exactly what we saw last year on the back of record low rainfall for the previous two years, so we are now in the third year of that,” he said.
This rainfall, the report states, has led to “severe levels of underlying dryness persisting in soils, and heavy forest fuels, along with higher abundance of dead fuel components and higher flammability of live vegetation”.
This could mean a busy time for our local brigades from Warrandyte heading out on Strike Teams.
And this does not mean Warrandyte should become complacent.
Dr Thornton said in his experience with communities that have experienced bushfires, a large proportion of the community are not well prepared for the fire season.
“A lot of them express surprise that they were actually impacted by fires, so it is important that we note that fires are a normal part of the Australian landscape and fires can start anywhere, they can start without warning, and in fact many communities may not receive a warning, because the fire will be on them so quickly.
Commissioner Crisp said that now is the time to start thinking about your preparation.
“It is cold and it is wet at the moment, but this is the time where we need to start preparing — so we plan and prepare in peace time, because it is too late when we are actually battling a fire,” he said.
Talking to the Diary, Commissioner Crisp advised that communication is the key to preparing for fire season.
“If you are getting good information, it will enable you to make good decisions,” he said.
He advised to have the Vic Emergency App loaded on your phone and to begin the physical preparation of properties.
“In the areas like Warrandyte and Eltham, what are people doing to start thinking about preparing their properties?”
The emergency services have commenced preparing for the coming season.
Commissioner Crisp said there is a really narrow window as to when and where planned burning can occur.
“Forest Fire Management Victoria and DELWP have done their absolute best in relation to their targets for planned burning,” he said.
Chris Eagle, Assistant Chief Fire Officer of Forest Fire Management Victoria told the Diary that the urban areas of Melbourne are very interesting places to burn, as they are more complex burning areas because of the urban interface.
“Last year we did burning in Greensborough for the first time, so we are very conscious of how we do that small mosaic burning.
“We have a depot at Warrandyte, and the team there is very conscious of how they work with the local community to protect them,” Mr Eagle said.
Commissioner Crisp said that the population in outer Melbourne was growing, but that should not change our vigilance or our preparation.
“Even though we say Gippsland is of higher risk, we can’t become complacent anywhere across the state… that peri-urban fringe, where there is a lot of grassland, no one can afford to become complacent,” he told the Dairy.
“It doesn’t matter who you have got and where you have got them, it comes back to shared responsibility — [the Emergency Services] are preparing across the country — individuals and communities, are you preparing?”
Commissioner Crisp urged residents to begin now to start preparing for the season ahead by clearing around your house, cleaning gutters and making a fire plan — practice it and to stick to it.
“If you have got a plan to leave on an Extreme or a Very High day, then just make sure you do it — you have developed a plan for a reason.”
Earlier this year, Warrandyte Diary and CFA partnered with students on the Swinburne University Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media — Animation course to produce a series of short, educational animations on fire and bushfire safety.
Visit our Fire Safety page on the Warrandyte Diary website (warrandytediary.com.au/fire-safety) for tips on how to prepare your property, prepare your Fire Plan and what the various fire danger levels mean.
To make sure you are fire ready, download the Vic Emergency App from the iTunes or Google Play store, store the Bushfire Hotline number in your phone 1800 226 226 and make sure you listed to Emergency Broadcasters including 774 ABC Radio Melbourne on days of high risk.