Early start predicted for 2015-2016 fire season

Victoria is heading towards an early start to the fire season with an above normal fire risk predicted, according to the Southern Australia Seasonal Outlook.

CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said the outlook, compiled annually by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, uses the latest climate data and input from Australia’s fire services. These results will inform planning and resourcing for the coming fire season.

“In Victoria the temperature and rainfall over the next few months will be crucial in determining the fire threat, fuel growth and conditions this summer,” Euan said.

While August to October is traditionally Victoria’s wettest time of year, a decade of below average rainfall means the state remains quite dry. Even average rains over the period are unlikely to see the fire risk decrease due to the long term drying that has occurred. As temperatures rise leading into summer, soil moisture will decrease and fuel loads in forests and grasslands are expected to dry quickly.

The fire season’s severity and duration could also worsen, courtesy of warmer water temperatures in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This is a major driver of Australia’s climate, with the current El-Nino event in the Pacific one of the strongest on record.

According to the Seasonal Outlook these factors, along with long term climate effects “have created the situation where each fire season is likely to be more demanding than the last, both in economic and human costs.”

Chief Officer Ferguson said CFA together with other emergency service agencies would be working with the Victorian community to help prepare for the fire season.

“It’s important to be aware of the fire risk Victoria is likely to be confronted with over summer, and we will be again be working closely with our emergency management partners and the Victorian community to appropriately respond to these risks.”

The Southern Australian Seasonal Outlook can be downloaded here (pdf 585kb).

Related story: Victoria prepares for hot dry summer fire season.

Author: CFA News