21 December 2022

South West Slopes facing significant fire threat, warns RFS superintendent

| Edwina Mason
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Two years of wet weather has led to prolific vegetation growth across the South West Slopes, which is now facing its most significant grass fire threat in more than a decade. Photo: NSW RFS SWS Zone.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is warning residents of an increased risk of grass fires across the South West Slopes over the coming months as the weather warms up.

NSW RFS South West Slopes Zone Superintendent Andrew Dillon said two years of wet weather had led to prolific vegetation growth across the district, with the South West Slopes now facing its most significant grass fire threat in more than a decade.

Even recent wet weather and cooler conditions may lead to complacency.

But there was early warning of what may lay ahead when, as early as 24 November, fire crews attended a grass fire north of Boorowa on the Rugby Road.

READ ALSO Firefighters eye region’s long grass with caution as summer bushfire outlook released

With the high fuel loads across the South West Slopes starting to dry out, the risk of grass fires is increasing and landowners need to take care burning or when conducting other farming activities.

“It can take just a few days of hot, dry and windy weather for grasslands to cure and for fires to take hold, even in areas which have experienced recent heavy rains and flooding,” Superintendent Dillon said.

“Grass fires can start easily and spread rapidly, threatening homes, crops and livelihoods,” he said.

“I urge South West Slopes landholders to be aware of this increased threat and to prepare.”

Fire crews have been conducting hazard reduction burns throughout the South West Slopes in recent weeks. Photo: NSW RFS SWS Zone.

In recent weeks the NSW RFS South West Slopes Zone have completed hazard reduction burns to the west of the towns of Harden, Cootamundra and Young and outlying villages.

They have also conducted slashing works to clean up remaining fuel in the road corridor.

But, he said, it was time for everyone to knuckle down.

“Every landholder should have firefighting equipment on hand and ensure that it is in good working order,” Superintendent Dillon said.

“South West Slopes residents should also update and discuss their bushfire survival plan and know what they and their family will do if a fire threatens,” he said.

The top five actions landholders can take to make their property safer are:

  • Clear and maintain firebreaks – they can help prevent a fire spreading to or from your property.
  • Clear around assets and buildings – to help protect sheds and valuable equipment. Grazing livestock around assets is a good way to reduce the risk.
  • Check for restrictions before using fire – The South West Slopes Fire Control Centre can be contacted on 6386 1700 for information on fire restrictions.
  • Check and maintain equipment – a build-up of debris can cause a fire, destroying equipment and crops.
  • Have firefighting equipment handy – maintain hoses and water pumps, and check your water supply.

Residents should also download the Fires Near Me NSW app and set a ‘Watch Zone’ to monitor fires in their area.

For information about preparing for grass fires, check www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/grass or visit www.myfireplan.com.au.

To check the Fire Danger Ratings for your area, visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au or check the Fires Near MeNSW smartphone app.

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