While shires to our east are already on bushfire alert, the ACT will start its season late | The Canberra Times (Australian News)

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news, environment, bushfires, ESA, RFS

The expectation of further rainfall in the months ahead and low forest flammability has prompted the Emergency Services Agency to hold back its start to the bushfire season until November 1, a month later than usual. In a statement the ESA said that the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, recently released by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre, predicted a “very different” 2020-21 season to the previous two, with “wetter than average conditions expected through spring”. “As a result of the recent rain in August, and the expectation of further rainfall in spring with the current La Nina alert, it is anticipated that forest flammability will remain low over the coming months,” the agency said. “Rainfall so far in 2020 has eased the fire risk for large parts of eastern Australia.” However, it also cautioned about the risk of grass fires, which has led to the NSW RFS triggering its bushfire season to start early in three regional shire areas to the east of the ACT – the Eurobodalla, the Shoalhaven, and Bega Valley. “Recent and forecast rain, combined with warmer than average minimum temperatures, may provide ideal growing conditions for cropping and grassland areas,” the agency stated. “This spring growth has the potential to increase grass and crop fuel loads as it dries through summer, and this will be monitored closely.” The 2019-20 season was a scorcher across the Canberra region and much of NSW, culminating in a six-week period of high alert for January. READ MORE: During the season, 83,000 hectares of conservation land and 3000 hectares of agricultural land in the ACT were burnt. Two major transport links out of the ACT, the Monaro Highway and the Kings Highway, were both closed during periods of the season due to fire and the threat of falling trees. The extreme nature of the threat led to an extensive “lessons learned” reflection, with two official reviews produced. Among the reviews’ findings were the need for more training, and the ESA has scheduled training exercises in major incidents in the weeks ahead after its staff said they did not feel properly prepared for a crisis of this magnitude. In the ACT rural land holders’ submission, respected Symonston grazier Tom Allen called for an “asset protection zone” at Canberra’s urban edges to establish a fire zone buffer between reserves and farms. He said a maintained buffer zone would prevent the “bulldozing of ‘last minute’ [fire] trails at huge expense”. ACT Parks and Conservation held a prescribed burn of 34 hectares in the Molonglo River Reserve on Friday, and several more are likely in the weeks ahead should favourable conditions continue. The ESA is holding a “get ready weekend” on Saturday and Sunday (September 19-20).

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