A message from DCO Alen Slijepcevic, Executive Director Bushfire and Safer Together
The bushfire season approaches us with an above average fire potential with many areas of the state already in the Fire Danger Period.
Photo: Newstead Fire Brigade, Hepburn fires, February 2019
In Victoria we’ve seen below average rainfall in the Mallee, East Gippsland and North of the Divide. Eastern Victoria has now experienced three years of below average rainfall in Autumn and Winter.
This has translated into much drier soil moisture conditions compared to the long-term average for this time of year. The importance of soil moisture is that it can inform us about the moisture stress on live foliage, as well as scrubby vegetation in dry forests. When these fuels dry out earlier than usual, they increase the flammability of the vegetation.
Open forests in the Goldfields are also an area to watch over the next month and into summer. Fire behaviour in these forests have been reported to be drier and more flammable than usual for this time of year making suppression more difficult and increasing the time required to black out.
More productive forested areas (such as the Central Highlands and Otway Ranges) are generally close to average conditions for this time of year. Forecast higher temperatures and average rainfall would dry those forests more than normal during summer.
Rainfall in the west and central Gippsland has been average, or even above average, in the past six months.
November-December climate outlooks from the Bureau of Meteorology show a very low chance of exceeding median rainfall. [Image: bom.gov.au]
As harvest operations commence, curing in grasslands and croplands are rapidly increasing in the north west.
When grasses are close to or fully cured, grass fire behaviour is at its maximum when coupled with elevated fire weather conditions. This heightens fire risk due to the increased use of farm machinery.
The forecast for the remainder of spring and over the summer period is for average to above average warmer than average days across the state, with average conditions along the south coast for the remainder of 2019.
Drier conditions are forecast with high variability across Victorian regions over the summer period. Insufficient spring rainfall means a higher chance of significant fire activity over summer, similar to last season.
I encourage all CFA people to prepare for the challenges our environment brings. Please ensure that you are up to date with a hazardous trees awareness and that you practise an entrapment procedure.
Look after yourself, your family and your fellow brigade members.
For any questions about the seasonal outlook, watch the video below (it can also be found on CFA Members Online) or please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: DCO Alen Slijepcevic