Victoria’s recent wettest October on record, coupled with reduced fuel loads following the 2019-20 bushfire season and the continued wet outlook is contributing to the forecast of below normal fire potential for eastern parts of the state this summer.
According to the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for Summer, released today, the forecast of below normal grass fire activity is expected in early summer due to saturated soils, however, the risk of grass fires may increase later in summer as grasses dry out, so it is important communities remain vigilant to the risk of fires no matter where they live.
Significant grass growth in paddocks and roadsides is already evident across much of the state and delayed harvest activities may enhance fire risk over summer.
The outlook also forecasts normal fire potential for the north and west of Victoria, with an increase in fire potential from mid-summer. Central and eastern Victoria is expected to receive above average rainfall which will impact upon fire activity in those areas.
While it’s been a wet start to summer, Victoria is well prepared for the potential of fires, with a mix of water bombing aircraft, air supervision and air intelligence gathering aircraft positioned across the state for the high risk weather season.
Aircraft have already played a key role in Victoria over the last month during the flood response.
Australia’s Fire Danger Rating System has also been improved, with four new ratings designed to be easier to understand and provide clear advice about actions to take.
Moderate, high, extreme and catastrophic ratings show how dangerous a bushfire could be. When no Fire Danger Rating is issued, an arrow will point to a ‘no rating’ level.
The annual Victorian Fire Season campaign will commence on 5 December. While Victoria has been hit hard with significant flooding over the past few months, conditions can change quickly and Victorians need to be ready.
The fire campaign targets audiences living in high-risk areas throughout regional Victoria, people living on the outskirts of Melbourne and large regional centres near open grasslands, and local, national and international people travelling across Victoria.
The campaign encourages Victorians to plan and prepare for the fire season with messaging asking Victorians to ‘leave early’ in the event of high fire risk days and in fire emergencies.
Targeted advertisements will be distributed throughout Victoria over the fire season in a variety of languages on TV, through digital, radio, outdoor, online, via social media, and through state, local and community newspapers.
Emergency services are keeping an eye on any changes in conditions however the outlook is a good early indication of what we could expect in the summer season.
The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for summer is developed by AFAC and supported by the Bureau of Meteorology with fire and land managers and is the first look at bush and grass fire conditions in 2022-23.
With more rain forecast this year it’s important for communities to understand their flood risk. Find local flood guides for your area on the VicEmergency website. You can also keep up to date with the Fire Danger Ratings on the VicEmergency website.
Quotes attributable to Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp.
“While the summer is traditionally about fire risk, it’s clear that increased rain and the potential for above average rainfall in some parts of the state will be a focus for us over summer.
“It is so important communities remain vigilant and prepare for all emergencies – that includes fires, floods, storms, water safety, heat and other emergencies.
“Communities should consider not only how they can prepare themselves and their families but how they can support their neighbours or other vulnerable members of
their community for a range of emergencies, including a plan to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours following an emergency, if they are able.”
Quotes attributable to Country Fire Authority Chief Officer Jason Heffernan
“Victoria is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world, so even an average fire season can have devastating consequences.
“With the fire danger period already commenced in some parts of the state, now is the time to prepare your property by pruning branches near buildings, clearing gutters and keeping grass shorter than 10cms.”
Quotes attributable to Fire Rescue Victoria Acting Fire Rescue Commissioner Gavin Freeman
“We are working alongside our emergency service colleagues to undertake significant planning and preparedness activities to ensure we are ready to respond to all emergency incidents this fire season, however it is important Victorians do their part too.
“It’s important you understand your fire risk and get prepared now, don’t wait until a fire starts. Make sure you and everyone in your household knows what to do during the summer period, when fires can start and spread quickly.
“If you live near grasslands, you need to understand the risks associated with fast-moving grassfires. If a fire starts in grasslands near your home, walk two streets back and keep clear of responding emergency services.”
Quotes attributable to Forest Fire Management Victoria Acting Chief Fire Officer Allyson Lardner
“Forest Fire Management Victoria takes a year-round approach to reducing bushfire risk on public land. The predicted wetter and cooler conditions mean communities can expect to see Forest Fire Management Victoria conducting planned burns well into summer.
“Our bushfire risk reduction program also includes the construction and maintenance of strategic fuel breaks and the use of mechanical fuel treatments like slashing, mowing, mulching, chaining, and rolling.
“Victorians looking forward to getting outdoors to explore our state forests and parks after a wet spring can also help manage bushfire risk by taking care if lighting campfires.
“Never leave a campfire unattended and always put a campfire out with water. If the ashes are cool to touch – it's safe to leave.”
Quotes attributable to Victoria State Emergency Service Chief Officer Tim Wiebusch
“SES volunteers have seen their busiest month on record this October, responding to over 13,700 Requests for Assistance (RFA). I’m immensely proud of the work they have undertaken, and will continue to as we see further rain into summer.
“It just goes to show how wet this spring has been, and how Victorians should never become complacent when it comes to preparing for adverse weather events. Especially for those living in at risk locations, ensure to have a robust plan in place for both flooding and fire events. It’s vital you know your risk. A prepared community is a resilient community.”