Prepare for fast-moving grassfires this summer

Thursday, 26 November 2020 at 12:22 am

The state’s fire services have warned Victorians not to be complacent this summer, despite the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for November to February indicating a “normal” fire risk this summer.

The outlook, developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre with Bureau of Meteorology and relevant state fire and land managers, was released today. 

It indicates that Victoria is likely to experience a less severe bushfire season this summer compared to last summer – particularly in the east of the state. The outlook is due to average to above average rainfall during spring, combined with an outlook of above average rainfall for much of Victoria from December to February due to the influence of La Niña.

The latest outlook confirmed the forecast of the September-November outlook that due to significant grass growth, 2020/21 has the potential to be more of a grassfire-dominated season.

Potential for above-normal grassfire activity has been flagged for north-east border areas in December, due to the heavy grass and crop fuels prior to harvest.

CFA Acting Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic said as one of the world’s most bushfire-prone areas, even a normal fire season in Victoria presents a high risk to communities.

“We urge all Victorians in high-risk areas to prepare their properties and take particular care while using harvesting and other machinery.

“You also need to plan and prepare for your safety so you, and everyone in your household, know what to do on hot, dry, windy days when fires can start and spread quickly.

“Grassfires travel faster than you can run and they jump highways, so you need to activate your fire plan on those high risk days before a fire starts.”

Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman said some Victorian forests may well remain damp enough to experience average to below-average fire activity, but even a normal fire season can be dangerous so there’s no room for complacency.

“We urge anyone enjoying our parks and outdoors to be extremely careful when using fires. If you’re lighting a campfire this summer, make sure you never leave it unattended and that you put it out properly before you leave as these can otherwise cause devastating bushfires,” he said.

Fire Rescue Victoria Commissioner Ken Block said the forecast rainfall, mixed with warm weather, meant grassfires are likely to be one of the biggest risks this season.

“No matter where you live, but particularly if you live on the urban fringe, you must be aware of the risks and start preparing early,” he said.

“If your property is next to grassland and a fire starts near your home, walk two streets back and keep clear of responding fire trucks.”