Fast-running grassfires will be a risk across Victoria this summer, with winter and spring rain leading to significant pasture growth in paddocks and roadsides.
According to the update of the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, released today, Victoria is expecting a normal fire season, with below-normal bushfire potential across the east, however the potential for grassfires is still very real across Victoria.
The delayed harvest due to recent rain, will heighten the fire risk associated with cropping, compared to previous years.
Normal fire potential is expected in grasslands and dry forests and short-duration fires are still likely to occur under the right conditions – hot dry and windy days.
During winter and spring, most of Victoria received average to above average rainfall, except the northwest and far west of the state. This has resulted in a later start to the fire season compared to recent years.
The current climate outlook for summer indicates above average rainfall in some parts of Victoria with generally warmer than average conditions in the west of the state and average conditions in the east of the state.
The rainfall outlook and existing underlying moisture means there is a low likelihood of large-scale fires in the foothill forests, with below-normal risk across the eastern, northeast and central ranges and the Otways.
Burnt areas from the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fire seasons are included as part of the below-normal fire risk in eastern Victoria as these forested areas continue to recover from recent fire seasons.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said when grasses and crops are close to fully dry, there is a very high potential for fire behaviour to rapidly escalate under elevated fire weather conditions.
“It’s critical that if you live, work or are on the move to new areas, you must know and understand the fire risk near you," he said.
“Know where you can go to get good information to make good decisions. Stay informed over summer – listen to information and warnings and be ready to enact your plan.”
CFA Deputy Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic said despite the late onset of the fire season, it’s really important that Victorians don’t get complacent.
"We live in one of the world’s most bushfire-prone areas and even a normal fire season presents a potential high risk. We urge residents to prepare their properties and continue to keep on top of fast-growing grass," he said.
“Anyone who lives in or travels through regional areas need to monitor conditions and have a plan for dry, hot and windy days.
“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 it’s not just people who live in rural areas that need to be aware of their risk of grassfires this summer – those who live on the urban fringe could also be at risk.
“If you live on the urban fringe next to grasslands and a fire breaks out, walk two streets back into the built-up areas and wait for emergency services to arrive," he said.
“If you live more than two streets away from grassfires, stay indoors with the windowsills and doors blocked by towels and turn off your air-conditioning.”
Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said while below-normal fire risk in some parts of the state is welcome, Victorians live in one of the most bushfire prone regions in the world and needs to work with emergency services to prevent fires from starting.
“Unattended campfires are the cause of more than 10% of all bushfires in Victoria yet are completely avoidable - It only takes one stray ember to cause a destructive bushfire, and grassfires can spread quickly to vast areas endangering communities in minutes," he said.
“With many Victorians once again expected to visit our much-loved network of parks and forests over the warmer months it is crucial that fire safety remains a priority to help prevent the devastating impacts of fires on communities and the environment.”
Over summer, it’s important to know where you can go to get good information to make good decisions. In Victoria, you can get emergency information from a number of sources:
- The VicEmergency app, emergency.vic.gov.au
- ABC radio or other emergency broadcasters including commercial and community radio stations.
- Sky TV.
- The VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.
- VicEmergency on Facebook or Twitter.