High fire risk warning

By Sonia Isaacs

GOVERNMENTS at all levels are being urged to prepare for a potentially devastating fire season ahead with the Climate Council of Australia warning that prolific vegetation growth over recent years due to a protracted La Niña event could potentially create ‘powder keg’ conditions.
Inspector Andrew Allan, Rural Fire Service Area Director Sunshine Coast, acknowledged that wet conditions over the last three years may have temporarily dampened our bushfire risk, however with these conditions set to change over the coming months; now was the time for residents to prepare.
He said since 2020, the combination of rain and overall weather conditions had produced a large body of fuel not only on the Sunshine Coast but throughout the state.
“This type of increased fuel growth contains a lot of vegetation and grass, which can lead to a continuous fuel load – this basically means fires can continue and not stop. There are concerns that spring 2023/summer 2024 could be shaping up to be a significant fire season,” warned Inspector Allan.
He said over the last few years the wet conditions had meant the windows of opportunity for mitigation strategies had been missed, however that window existed now and residents would have noticed increased hazard reduction activity over the last three-four weeks.
He said Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) had been working alongside local Council and Queensland Parks and Wildlife crews to activate fire breaks, create fire trails and ensure mechanical forms of fuel reduction. Inspector Allan said authorities would be closely monitoring conditions over the next two months to provide a better indication of what sort of fire season could be ahead.
“The next six to eight weeks will really shape up what we could be in for, and there is a high possibility of fires affecting us on the Sunshine Coast. That is why at this time of year we are prioritising mitigation activities along with strategic burns to create a buffer zone between the bush and residences, and lessen the impact on community,” Inspector Allan said.
With the probability of Australia entering an El Niño pattern of hotter drier conditions ahead, Inspector Allan reiterated that fire preparation was a shared community responsibility.
“Our highly trained rural fire fighters are in the community doing hazard mitigation but it’s a shared responsibility that also comes down to property owners to prepare their properties for any potential fire season ahead,” he said.
Inspector Allan said simple measures such as regular property vegetation maintenance including regular lawn mowing and trimming overhead branches would help reduce the risk of fire impact. Removing flammable material from around the home, ensuring gutters are cleared, and making sure residents had a bushfire survival plan in place were recommended.