WITH swades of dead trees, dry dams and hot temperatures, the region’s firefighters are preparing for intense bushfire season that could be plagued with large forest infernos.
The Tamworth Rural Fire Service has applied to officially start the bushfire season a month earlier, on September 1.
Firies aren’t too concerned about the grass fires that usually hit the region, as the drought has left a smaller than usual amount of fuel on the ground. However, they are worried about the large number of trees dying from the harsh conditions.
Tamworth RFS Superintendent Allyn Purkiss said the dead trees would make it much easier for fires to “crown” or jump up in to the tree tops.
“That’s very dangerous, because the fire can make its own weather,” he said.
“Once it’s up in the crown, it can push itself from tree to tree, even without a lot of wind behind it, and it’s very difficult to stop.”
On top of the constant threat of crowning, Superintendent Purkiss said the dead trees were more likely to drop large branches.
“The trees are already so weak because they’re dying, so branches and trees falling on firefighters are a real safety issue,” he said.
If that wasn’t enough, the RFS will be battling blazes without the usual water resources, with property dams and nearby creeks running bone dry.
“This will all effect the way we fight bushfires this season,” Superintendent Purkiss said.
“Where we’d normally charge in and do what we can in the forest, we’ll have to seriously think about falling back to clearer areas, bulldozing in containment lines and backburning in to the fire.
“It means burning out a little bit more country, but I would sacrifice a bit more country for a firefighter any day.”
Superintendent Purkiss and his crew will be on high alert every time a lightning storm rolls through the region.
“Normally if lightning strikes a tree, it’ll trickle around for a while,” he said.
“With it being so dry and dead, I’m really worried that every strike is going to take and start a fire.
“That’ll be a real issue for us. We know we’re going to get storms.”
Once a bushfire season has been declared, the RFS will have the power to stop people from conducting burns on high fire danger days, even if they have a permit.