The Country Fire Authority is preparing for a long, dry fire season and is urging residents of Yarrawonga and surrounding rural areas to start planning now.
With parts of NSW already impacted by bushfires in recent weeks, indicators suggest the Fire Danger Period in Victoria might be declared earlier in 2017 as conditions point to a dangerous summer ahead.
“At the moment we are meeting with group officers from across the region, including Yarrawonga,” said CFA District 22 Operations Officer Peter Bell.
“We’re aware that the landscape is quickly drying out and if we don’t get some more spring rainfall conditions will continue to worsen.
“Indications on weather patterns heading our way from South Australia suggest warmer weather sooner rather than later and that all points to an early, long and very hot fire season.”
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook shows the southern fire season is likely to start earlier and be more active than usual due to a warm, dry winter and forecasts of a hot summer.
The start of the Fire Danger Period,
determined by the CFA, is usually some time in November (November 28 in 2016) but could be considerably earlier this year, according to Mr Bell.
“It will depend on a lot of factors, in particular where and when rain falls in the next few weeks,” he said.
“We had a dry winter and even though we saw decent rainfall into spring that moisture is drying up very quickly.
“We’ve also had a lot of frosts this year which also dries the moisture from the ground. There is some water about but it’s not plentiful.
“We are more than likely looking at an early season, possibly starting in October, which means people need to start planning now.”
CFA District 22 groups are in the midst of regular meetings, ensuring staff and equipment are prepped and ready for the season ahead and members from the district office in Shepparton are participating in state briefings.
Mr Bell said one of the most pleasing aspects of fire season preparations had been the Victorian Government investment in fire-fighting aircraft.
“The state government has invested $13 million in securing more aircraft for the fire season which is great,” he said.
“We will have aircraft stationed at Shepparton, Benalla, Mangalore and Albury this season which are ready to respond automatically.”
With the CFA doing their part, Mr Bell said the onus was now on property owners to put their own preparations into swing.
“Don’t wait another month. If you have blocks in residential areas get them cut back now before you have to be issued with direction to do so,” he said.
“On rural properties people need to be cleaning up, cutting back grass and weeds and getting things sorted out.
“People also need to have a look at their fire plan. Make sure it is up to date and ready to go when you need it.
“We don’t want to cry wolf or panic anyone but the time to start doing this is now so that if fires do occur everyone is prepared.”