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Bushfire potential ‘above normal’ for coming summer

A lack of rainfall has left southern Australia prone to an above normal fire potential this summer. The emergence of La Nina conditions at the start of the year delivered good rainfall in the northern parts of Australia but failed to deliver anything significant in the southern half.

Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (Bushfire CRC) scientists at the Bureau of Meteorology have worked with fire managers around Australia to evaluate the fire potential of the coming season for the southern parts of Australia and combined this with predictions made earlier for the northern bushfire season.

The Bushfire CRC has produced a map (Fire Potential Outlook for Australia 2008-2009) showing that above-normal fire potential is expected for south-western Western Australia, southern portions of South Australia, eastern Tasmania, southern Victoria, south-east Queensland and in northern and central regions of New South Wales.

Solid fuel fire bans will be introduced in State forests in the central west of NSW from Lithgow to Orange and on the Oberon plateau from midnight on Monday 3 November.

Forests NSW Fire Protection Officer based at Bathurst, Russell Cowgill, said Forests NSW enforced a solid fuel fire ban when conditions were such that the lighting of fires could significantly increase the risk of a wildfire.

“The ban restricts the use of open fires because forest fuels are dry, increasing the risk of campfires escaping into the forests.

“Under the seasonal fire ban, all fires using solid fuels such as wood or charcoal are prohibited at all times.

“The pine plantations in the central west are a valuable resource providing 2000 jobs and contributing $226 million dollars to the regional economy.

“The forests are also very popular with tourists and locals for recreation. And since we introduced the solid fuel fire bans policy each summer, they have proved to be very effective in reducing the number of wildfires.

“We are asking day trippers and campers who may be coming into the forests during the summer to bring gas appliances. Gas appliances are not affected by the bans, but care should still be taken when using them in the forests,” Cowgill said.

He said the solid fuel fire ban applied every day throughout summer and not just on days of declared Total Fire Ban (TOBAN).

Cowgill said that signs warning of the Solid Fuel Fire Ban would be erected on major roads leading into State forests affected by the restrictions.

Failure to comply with the Solid Fuel Fire Ban restrictions carries a maximum penalty of $2200.

For further information about the fire bans, contact Forests NSW Macquarie Region on (02) 6331 2044.