Battling Bushfires: Preparing for a Challenging Season

03 October 2023

While the Bureau of Meteorology has officially declared that we are in an El Niño weather pattern the season across Tasmania has varied significantly from one region to the next. While a severe rainfall deficiency grips parts of the south of the state, areas of the north are still very wet.

Both situations are ominous for the summer fire season. Recent bushfires near Coles Bay on the East Coast are indicative of how dry things are there already and serve as a stark reminder of the challenges ahead. Rain in the north while increasing feed also increases fuel loads.

The Australian Fire Authorities Council, in its “Seasonal bushfire outlook 2023” issues a strong warning. Conditions are ripe for undergrowth, promising greater fuel loads and elevated bushfire risks this season. Fires may be more intense, rendering fire control and fuel reduction efforts all the more challenging. Worryingly as the current drying trend persists, grassland curing in the south and east is occurring earlier than usual increasing forest fuels much sooner in the season.

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While much of spring usually offers favourable conditions for fuel reduction, the eastern and southern regions are drying out prematurely. Land managers are urged to reduce fuel and fire hazards while they safely can. Ordinarily, fire permits are enforced from November to March, though this may change depending on conditions. Farmers should utilise the current window to conduct controlled burns, with permits if required, and ensure they follow the guidelines set by Tasmania Fire Service or the designated permit officer.

Rural residents are urged to create comprehensive bushfire prevention and survival plans for their properties. These plans must prioritise the protection of infrastructure, livestock and crops, as well as including fuel reduction burns and other control measures where appropriate. For those in need of guidance, Red Hot Tips offers assistance in organizing fuel reductions.

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Equally crucial is the regular inspection, maintenance, and servicing of firefighting equipment. Fire pumps must be in prime condition, hoses checked for leaks and fuel levels monitored to guarantee readiness when the need arises.

The likelihood of a significant bushfire season looms large therefore it is important to prepare early, review bushfire plans, organise for the season ahead, and remain acutely aware of local conditions. By doing so we not only protect ourselves but also our communities and environment