WARMER and drier conditions suggest the fire season in Victoria is likely to start earlier than usual and be more active than normal.
The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre with the Bureau of Meteorology and state fire and land managers, was released last week.
The outlook indicates Victoria will have a “normal” fire season, except for East Gippsland, where conditions appear to be above normal.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the outlook was an early indication of what Victoria could expect in the summer season.
“The severity of the fire season will depend on a number of factors, including the amount, location and timing of rain in the months leading up to summer.
“Much of East Gippsland has experienced two years of record low rainfall in autumn and winter, and fires in that region early in August highlight the severe level of dryness in forests.”
In Victoria’s west and central regions, rain has kept ground moisture relatively high although it has the potential to dry out quickly under dry and warm conditions.
The Bureau of Meteorology spring outlook forecasts the next three months to have an increased drought and heatwave potential compared to previous years.
Mr Crisp said while Victoria’s traditional period of increased fire activity was January and February, the outlook suggests there was uncertainty around when fires will occur over the summer period and how intense they are likely to be.
“Fires in south-west Victoria in March this year and in East Gippsland in August are examples of significant fires outside of the traditional period for Victoria.
“The agencies will be keeping an eye on any change in conditions. The outlook is a good early indication of what we will expect in the upcoming summer season and will be updated in November as predictions firm up.”
He said the emergency management sector was preparing ahead of the summer season.
“Pre-season briefings for emergency management personnel will begin to roll out across Victoria so our people understand the predicted outlook, know the risks and are prepared to respond to emergencies, working with communities.
“It’s important the community understands their own risk and circumstances and considers their preparedness works.”