FIRE danger season is expected to start earlier than normal across the state due to continued warm and dry weather conditions.
Country District Authority District 17 operations manager Craig Brittain said he expected the Wimmera’s fire danger season to start either late October or early November. Last year’s season started on November 20.
It comes after the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook was released on Thursday.
Although the outlook indicated most of the state would have a ‘normal’ fire season, it revealed that ground moisture in the state’s western and central regions had the potential to dry out quickly under continued warm conditions.
Mr Brittain said the region’s CFA, police, State Emergency Services, Parks Victoria, and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning groups were regularly monitoring conditions.
“Even though we’ve had below average rainfall, we’ve still had a decent amount of rain recently,” he said.
“The CFA has had discussions with other stakeholders that the conditions are still okay at the moment and the risk isn’t high just yet.
“As the weather warms up over the next few weeks, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and talk to those stakeholders.
“When it does reach a considerable risk, that’s when we will notify the community.
“We don’t enter into the fire danger period lightly; there are a lot of decisions made that dictate when the season starts.”
He said it was crucial that all community members heeded to restrictions.
“We talk about the risks every year,” he said.
“It’s either through ignorance or negligence that people continue to do the wrong thing. That is dangerous and puts the whole community at risk.
“The community should not be complacent and ignore the advice that this year will possibly be a bad summer period.”
Mr Brittain said it was never too early to start planning.
“People need to make sure they clear out all flammable items from around their homes,” he said.
“There is a lot of information available on the CFA’s website about preparing for the fire danger period.
“We always talk about the AFL Grand Final weekend (September 29-30) being the yard stick to measure when people start their fire preparations.
“People have more time on their weekends to clean up their properties and to update their fire plans.”
CFA District 16 operations manager Bernie Fradd said his regions was in a similar situation to District 17.
“The weather seems to be okay further south, we’ve had some decent rains,” he said.
“But further north towards St Arnaud and the Pyrenees region, it’s been very dry. They have some crops up and growing but it wouldn’t take much for that to turn bad.
“Unless we get some regular rain, fire season will likely be earlier this year – probably late October or early November.
“The next month is really when we’ll know what the season will be like for sure.”
Mr Fradd reiterated the importance of being fire safe throughout the year.
“Now’s the perfect time to start thinking about preparations – to mow the grass or clean up around the outside of your property,” he said.
“If farmers have burnt piles of trees, this is the time to start turning those piles so they don’t smolder. That is traditionally a big problem for us.”
Emergency Management Victorian commissioner Andrew Crisp said the outlook was an early indication of what the season could bring.
“It will be updated in November as predictions firm up,” he said.
“Pre-season briefings for emergency management personnel will begin to rollout across Victoria so our people understand the predicted outlook, know the risks and are prepared to respond to emergencies, working with communities.
“Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA have brought forward preparedness activities, including their fire prevention works. Forest Fire Management Victoria’s seasonal firefighters have been brought on four weeks earlier than previous years.
“This increased capability and capacity will assist in spring preparedness activities. It’s important the community understands their own risk and circumstances and considers their preparedness works.”