Victorians are still at risk of fast-running scrub and grass fires, CFA has warned as it issued a reminder that February is a month that has seen some of the state’s worst fires over the years.
While conditions have recently eased in some parts of the state, parts of Victoria are still very dry and above-average temperatures are expected for Victoria throughout February and into March.
CFA Chief Officer and CEO Steve Warrington said now was a good time to revisit bushfire safety plans – especially if household circumstances have changed with the return of family members to work and school.
“Our message to the community is that there is still the risk of fast-running scrub and grass fires and we are not out of the danger zone just yet. This is still fire season and you still need to be prepared,” he said.
Despite recent rains, significant fires remain active in the state with firefighters continuing to work on bringing them under control, and any new fires could still be problematic many parts of Victoria.
As relief and recovery efforts are ongoing in communities throughout East Gippsland and North East Victoria, a serious threat remains across the state.
“Victorians are reminded that some of the most devastating fires in our state have occurred throughout the month of February, including the St Patrick’s Day fires in 2018, Black Saturday in 2009, the North East fires in 2003, and Ash Wednesday in 1983. Going further back, the Gippsland Fires in 1965, Red Tuesday in 1898, and Black Thursday in 1851 all took place during February,” CO/CEO Warrington said.
“One of last bushfire season’s highest-impact fires, the Bunyip State Park fire destroyed 29 homes and many more outbuildings. That fire didn’t start until 1 March and burned more than 15,000 hectares before it was contained two weeks later.”
Mr Warrington said weather modelling indicates there is a strong chance that Victoria will exceed the average temperature, particularly in the north of the state, which could also continue into March.
“That means as we move through the next few weeks with those hotter conditions, there’s potential for grass fires particularly to have considerable impact on spike days.”
Following last year’s bushfire season, CFA’s annual Bushfire Community Survey showed that 52 per cent of respondents considered the risk moderate, minor or non-existent.
Worryingly, a third said they would only leave when a fire threatens their town or suburb rather than the morning of or night before a day of extreme fire danger.
“We’ve been really pleased this season that people have heeded our warnings and left their homes and communities when we have told them to do so,” CO/CEO Warrington said.
“We want people to continue to do that, but also to take responsibility for their own safety as we won’t always be able to give them that early opportunity to evacuate, especially if we’re talking about a new and fast-running fire.
“It’s important to get your head around what the real risk is to you and your friends and family, how to minimise it and what to do when there is a bushfire emergency.
“Members of the community who live and travel to high-risk bushfire areas along with visitors to Victoria need to stay alert and inform themselves of how they will keep safe in a fire.
“We ask that they understand the risk to them, how the warnings system works and what they need to do on high-risk bushfire days in the areas they live and work in and travel to,” he said.