With bush, scrub and grass fires already burning in parts of the state, and the first Total Fire Ban of the season issued, the 2020-21 fire season for Victoria is now well underway.
Despite this, the latest Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for December through to February 2021 continues to indicate an “average” fire season for state.
One significant update in the outlook for December to February 2021, will be the potential for above normal grass fire activity in North East Victoria. This is due to significant grass growth.
This latest outlook developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre with Bureau of Meteorology and relevant state fire and land managers, confirmed a similar forecast earlier in the September-November 2020 outlook.
With the outlook for summer continuing to indicate above-average rainfall across Victoria due to the influence of La Niña, it is likely this soil moisture will persist in many areas and lead to average fire potential across the State, with the exception of the far north east. Bushfire risk in the eastern parts of the state, particularly in areas that burnt last season, has reduced, thereby reducing the risk of prolonged fires. Elsewhere in the state, shorter-duration fires are still likely to occur in drier forests and woodland/heath fuels on hotter and windier days.
Acting Emergency Management Commissioner Deb Abbott said while it’s been cold and wet in some parts of the state, now is the time for individuals, families and communities to think about preparedness ahead of increased fire activity.
“What is the plan you are putting in place for yourself, your family, pets and stock? As part of your plan, think about the clear triggers and when you will enact your plan.
“The other piece is about information; good information will always lead to good decisions. Victorians need to know how they can access good information – through the VicEmergency app, social media including Facebook and Twitter, and through emergency broadcasters.
“As a sector we’re prepared, but my question to Victorians is: are you prepared?”
CFA Acting Chief Officer, Alen Slijepcevic said as one of the world’s most bushfire-prone areas, even a normal fire season in Victoria presents a high risk to communities.
“We urge all Victorians in high-risk areas to prepare their properties and take particular care while using harvesting and other machinery.”
“Grassfires travel faster than you can run, and they jump highways, so you need to activate your fire plan on those high-risk days before a fire starts.”
Fire Rescue Victoria Commissioner Ken Block said the forecast rainfall, mixed with warm weather, means grassfires are likely to be one of the biggest risks this season.
“No matter where you live, but particularly if you live on the urban fringe, you must be aware of the risks and start preparing early.”
“If your property is next to grassland and a fire starts near your home, walk two streets back and keep clear of responding fire trucks.”
Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said some Victorian forests may remain damp enough to experience average to below-average fire activity, but that even a normal fire season can be dangerous so there is no room for complacency.
“We urge anyone enjoying our parks and outdoors to be extremely careful when using fires. If you’re lighting a campfire this summer, make sure you never leave it unattended and that you put it out properly before you leave as these can otherwise cause devastating bushfires,” he said.
Preparations for this summer have been occurring since September, to ensure Victoria’s emergency management sector is ready for what is to come with the added complexity and overlay of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
But this is a shared responsibility, and Victorians should not be complacent this summer no matter the outlook. Now is the time to prepare and plan your home, your family and your communities for the risk of fire.
Like we have seen countless times before, in Victoria it will be hot and there will be fires. But summer is not just about fires, it’s about heat, floods, storms and water safety.
The emergency services sector continues to work closely together to ensure the safety of Victorian communities with the delivery of more resources and support to protect the community this fire season.
This includes thousands of dedicated volunteer and career firefighters from across all agencies, as well as a record fleet of 51 aircraft, which will hit the skies to help fight fires and keep communities safe.
Victoria also has a surge capacity of up to 100 aircraft that can supplement the Victorian core fleet and can be called when needed.