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Firies predicting a long summer

Timbered areas around the southern slopes such as the Snowy Valleys region will be of particular concern this storm season according to the Bureau of Meteorology and the Rural Fire Service.

While lack of rain and the ongoing drought are factors that have the RFS worried, District Coordinator for RFS Peter Jones said that predictions of a bad storm season is likely to generate lightning strikes which he said causes 70 per cent of fires during November, December and January.

“Areas where there is forestry is being seen as a particular concern,” Mr Jones said. “If we don’t get any more rain by November it will be particularly bad. Already the grass up around Gundagai is turning brown and although the grass around Tumut is giving the impression that things are good, that will shortly change without decent rainfall.

“On a 30 degree day in conditions such as what we have been seeing, if there’s lightning you can almost guarantee that we would get a call out.”

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast severe heatwaves for the coming months and has also warned of a particularly bad storm season which will intern generate lightening strikes.

Mr Jones said that, historically, the region had seen at least one more good rainfall around October/November yet so far the signs weren’t looking hopeful.

“Even around Adjungbilly, Tumorrama and the Brindabellas, you can see it starting to dry out. I would say that we are probably a little bit worse off than we have been in the past,” he said.

He said that although the RFS was continuing to issue out fire permits, those permitted fires were being heavily monitored and the RFS was holding regular meetings to assess whether permits should be restricted early.

“At the moment, we mostly have permits going out for those needing to have small scale burns on properties. On the first of December there will definitely be no permits but we are monitoring the situation to determine if we need to withdraw them even earlier. It will depend on whether we receive rain or not,” he said. 

He said that a particular concern moving forward was lightning strikes which he said is the culprit for 70 percent of fire’s in the area during November, December and January.

Parts of the country have already seen bushfires, and the Bureau’s head of long-range forecasts, Dr Andrew Watkins, said the current state of Australia’s climate drivers meant the likelihood of seeing more bushfire activity than normal was increased.

“The Bureau outlook shows we’re likely to see more warmer and drier than average conditions for the coming months. This is due largely to a record strong positive Indian Ocean Dipole, that leads to drier air than usual over northwest Australia that supplies much of Australia’s rainfall,” Dr Watkins said.

“The increased odds of warmer than average days, coupled with a very dry landscape and a likely late start to the northern wet season, give a clear indication that we’re likely to see more heatwaves than normal.

“It also adds to the potential bushfire risk, particularly when you consider how dry many parts of southern and eastern Australia are at the moment,” he said.