18 March 2023

Rains bring relief for Far South Coast's bushfire potential this autumn

| Albert McKnight
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The bushfire outlook for autumn has been released. Image: AFAC.

The Black Summer bushfires are still fresh in the minds of many Far South Coast residents but a national report, and the region’s firefighters, don’t expect the region to face severe fire conditions this autumn thanks to recent rain.

AFAC, the national council for fire and emergency services, released its Seasonable Bushfire Outlook Autumn 2023 report earlier this month.

The report says Australia has recently been influenced by several factors that favoured wetter than average conditions in many locations, but climate outlooks for this season suggested a change to drier conditions.

However, the NSW Far South Coast is one of several regions that is expected to face below normal fire potential due to increased fuel moisture from the good rainfall received over spring and summer.

It was one of the regions badly hit in the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires, but the report also warns these regions are accumulating regrowth quickly following favourable growing conditions.

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“Below normal potential is expected to continue for areas recovering from the 2019-20 fire season due to lower fuel loads, wetter than average soil moisture and the rainfall outlook,” the report says.

“It should be noted that rainfall over the last couple of seasons has created favourable growing conditions and fuels in these areas are re-accumulating quickly.”

When asked what conditions were like on the ground, the report’s findings were echoed by the NSW Rural Fire Service acting district manager for the Far South Coast, Daniel Osborne.

“We’ve had quite significant rainfall over recent months which has promoted grass growth quite significantly,” he said.

“But it remains quite damp – we haven’t had many days of elevated fire danger [in this past season].”

Mr Osborne said the Far South Coast was still feeling the effects of the Black Summer fires, as the blazes reduced much of the fuel load.

But he also said due to the rains, the RFS had not been able to complete hazard reductions for the past six to 12 months.

High rainfall results in high fuel moisture content. The RFS needs the fuel moisture content to be less than 15 per cent to conduct a successful hazard reduction, but for a couple of weeks in mid-January when fuel had appeared to dry out, fuel moisture levels were still double that percentage.

Mr Osborne said the RFS would take the opportunity to conduct hazard reductions when conditions were right.

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He had advice for what landowners can do this autumn, urging them to keep their properties maintained over the next months so they won’t have a huge workload before the fire danger period starts later in the year.

He also urged landowners to revise their bushfire survival plan and ensure they were using fire responsibly, because despite what he said about a moderated risk this autumn, he said there was still potential for fires.

“We don’t want people to become complacent,” he said.

The last day of the bushfire danger period for the Far South Coast is 31 March, which means residents don’t need a fire permit for pile burning from 1 April. However, they must comply with council’s rules for burning and must notify the RFS regarding any planned burns on their properties.

The Far South Coast RFS has had some busy months recently, including sending members to support Hunter Valley firefighters in 2022, supporting the SES across the state in the recent floods and just this month sending members to Mudgee to help with fires in that area.

“We’ve been doing a whole lot of work to support others, like they supported us in our time of need,” Mr Osborne said.

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