THREATS of a busy bushfire season have been confirmed by weather forecasters who predict a long dry summer off the back of the wettest two year period on record.
It comes as the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre’s seasonal outlook map for the 2012 -2013 fire period paints a picture that the New England and North West, along with the majority of NSW, faces a massive bushfire threat over the coming months.
The Rural Fire Service (RFS) has been busy conducting hundreds of hazard reduction burns across the region in preparation and while its senior staff acknowledge the threat is real, they are prepared.
The research centre has revealed that consecutive record rainfall periods – a result of strong La Nina events – over the last two years have provided optimal grass fuel growth across the state.
It says fuel loads are almost at unprecedented levels despite ongoing hazard reduction burns.
The Weather Channel also predicts that fire danger could be a problem after moisture from major rain events,
followed by levels of extreme humidity, provided ample grass growth.
Its senior meteorologists say the nation is rapidly drying out and are confident that rain will be below average over most of the country through the remainder of 2012.
Weather Channel meteorologist Felim Hanniffy said the outlook for the next few months showed a weak-to- moderate El Nino forming over the Pacific Ocean, which tended to bring drier weather conditions.
“But there will be a change over the next week even though it has been dry over the past couple of months, with cold mornings and little to no cloud cover,” he said.
Mr Hanniffy predicted the chance of showers and thunderstorms was high this week and next across the region, but conditions would become much warmer and drier in time for the end of spring and start of summer.
Warm and windy weather conditions throughout August resulted in the Bushfire Danger Period being brought forward a month earlier than usual – to September 1 – but the RFS said it is prepared.
Tamworth RFS Superintendent Allyn Purkiss said they had completed all but one of the district’s scheduled hazard reduction burns and that would be done in the next few weeks.
He said the district’s RFS was armed with 1260 members, who underwent training over the winter months in preparation for bushfire season, and maintenance checks had been completed on all their equipment.