Wet-season fuel loads make for high-risk bushfire season
The heavy 2016-17 summer rains may have brought joy to those holding out for a good downpour but authorities are warning it has increased the likelihood of catastrophic bushfires this season.
The rains have led to higher than usual fuel loads, leading the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to allocate 16 extra firefighting vehicles to its North West fleet, six of which will be based in the Pilbara.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC 2017 Northern Australia Season Bushfire Outlook indicates an abovenormal fire potential is expected for parts of the Kimberley, south-western parts of the Pilbara and northern parts of the Mid West and Gascoyne.
DFES superintendent Peter McCarthy said agencies had been undertaking prescribed burns, strengthening firebreaks, slashing and reducing fuel loads around population centres for the past four months.
“We had a very wet wet season and that has led to higher than normal fuel loads in certain regions,” he said.
“They are already experiencing fires in the Kimberley and we are just starting to get fires popping up here in the Pilbara.
“As fuel loads intensify with the weather and dry winds, I’d say into the next two to three months we’ll start seeing some fairly active fires.”
Mr McCarthy said one of the biggest problems with fires in the North West was their impact on road systems, which could leave travellers stranded for a period of time.
The community is encouraged to prepare now and take extra precautions when travelling in these areas.
It is essential that the community heed warnings issued by emergency services.
People travelling through the area should carry a map and a bushfire survival kit, including a portable radio, first-aid kit, woollen blankets, spare batteries and plenty of drinking water before setting off.
They should also advise friends and family where they will be travelling and their expected arrival times.
High wet-season fuel loads have increased the fire risk in the Pilbara.