BOM, brigades is­sue warn­ing

Bush­fire risk rises as good win­ter rains feed sum­mer fuel load

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Trevor Pad­den­burg

These aerial im­ages show Al­bany’s great green­ing, but the lush veg­e­ta­tion from a wet win­ter and a moist start to spring mean mas­sive fuel loads in the south­ern re­gions of the State for the sum­mer bush­fire sea­son to come.

That’s the warn­ing from bush­fire brigades and the weather bureau, prompt­ing a plea from the Depart­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices for home­own­ers to pre­pare their prop­er­ties now.

Satel­lite im­ages show the Perth Hills, in­clud­ing Ro­ley­stone and Park­erville, are lush and ver­dant when com­pared with im­ages taken in March, at the end of sum­mer.

On the south coast, the most re­cent aerial im­ages of Al­bany show a stark con­trast to sum­mer.

The great­est dif­fer­ence is ev­i­dent in the South West, where satel­lite shots show Bus­sel­ton, Wa­roona and Yar­loop are now car­peted in green and al­most un­recog­nis­able com­pared with the bar­ren browns of last sum­mer.

Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy spokesman Neil Ben­nett de­scribed WA’s fuel loads as “heavy”, thanks to win­ter rain­fall in many ar­eas that eclipsed pre­vi­ous years, prompt­ing a flush of veg­e­ta­tion.

While a wet start to spring meant fuel loads were not tin­der dry, he said that could change within days when skies cleared and tem­per­a­tures rose.

“The mo­ment you get a week of dry con­di­tions, the fuel load dries out re­ally quick,” he said.

“It might be very green at the mo­ment, but it cer­tainly doesn’t take too long to dry out.”

In the South West, the Wall­cliffe Vol­un­teer Bush­fire Bri­gade warned res­i­dents that fuel loads had re­turned to lev­els seen be­fore the dev­as­tat­ing 2011 Margaret River bush­fires.

Op­po­si­tion emer­gency ser­vices spokesman Steve Thomas, who is based in Margaret River, said the heavy fuel load meant there was “al­most no area” of his shire that was not a high fire risk.

“As the years pass since 2011 and mem­o­ries fade, it is too easy to be­come com­pla­cent,” he said.

The lat­est sea­sonal out­look from the Bush­fire and Nat­u­ral Haz­ards Com­mu­nity Re­search Cen­tre warned of “above-nor­mal fire po­ten­tial” this sum­mer along the bush­fire-prone Dar­ling Scarp, as well as the South West, south coast and Esper­ance plain.

DFES also warned that Eu­cla faced above-av­er­age bush­fire po­ten­tial, thanks to pas­ture growth and ex­ist­ing ma­ture fu­els, while the Pil­bara and Gas­coyne had “higher-than-av­er­age grass fuel loads”.

Around the na­tion, the direst warn­ings have been is­sued for drought-plagued NSW, where the re­search cen­tre said mil­lions of peo­ple were po­ten­tially at risk.

It comes as the weather bureau re­leased a cli­mate mod­el­ling map this week that showed vir­tu­ally all of Aus­tralia had an 80 per cent chance of above-av­er­age tem­per­a­tures this sum­mer.

That pre­dic­tion is thanks to two ma­jor cli­mate drivers — a “de­vel­op­ing El Nino si­t­u­a­tion in the Pa­cific Ocean, and its equiv­a­lent in the In­dian Ocean, the pos­i­tive In­dian Ocean Dipole” — which come with “in­creased risk of heat­waves and bush­fires”, a weather bureau spokesman said.

De­spite the ris­ing tem­per­a­tures, the WA Gov­ern­ment and Depart­ment of Bio­di­ver­sity, Con­ser­va­tion and At­trac­tions said the threat of cat­a­strophic blazes like those that have hit Yar­loop and the Perth Hills in pre­vi­ous years had been re­duced through con­trolled burn­ing.

For the sec­ond year in a row, the depart­ment met its key tar­get of burn­ing 200,000ha across the broader south-west of the State.

DFES Com­mis­sioner Dar­ren Klemm said 90 per cent of the State had been de­clared bush­fire prone and there was “no pre­dict­ing” when and where one might strike.

“It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant that the com­mu­nity takes ac­tion to pre­pare now to re­duce the im­pact of these events,” he said.

A wet start to spring means fuel loads are not tin­der dry, but that could change within days when skies clear and tem­per­a­tures rise.

Pic­tures: Nearmap

Aerial view of Al­bany, Au­gust 2018.

Aerial view of Al­bany, March 2018

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