Fire experts and agencies are warning Victorians that this fire season is shaping up to be a long one given the lead up and forecast conditions.
Country Fire Authority (CFA) District 02 operations manager, Bill Johnstone, Bendigo, said curing of grasslands was well advanced on “normal”, due to significant rainfall deficits and higher daytime temperatures.
“We have already experienced some fire behavior in the past few weeks that we would not normally see,” Mr Johnstone said.
He said strong winds experienced recently would have hastened the drying process.
“The landscape will carry fire presently. We have brought all our readiness forward and testing is well advanced,” he said.
“There are no issues about our readiness including at the most fundamental level – at a brigade level – we are ready 24/7.
“The CFA is forward planning to ensure operational capability is met and maintained at the highest level of readiness for as long as it’s needed.”
Mr Johnstone said people should also know where to go for their emergency information.
“Go to an agency site and always verify the information,” he said.
Farmers and property owners need to be aware that traffic management may restrict access to areas during a fire, he said.
“It is a challenge to get people back into their properties as soon as possible and when it’s safe to do so,” he said.
Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC chief executive Dr Richard Thornton said fire seasons were lengthening and overlapping between southern and northern Australia.
Mr Thornton said most of Victoria had experienced dry conditions in recent months, with temperatures average or above average
“When preceding conditions have been like this, and the bush and grass is so dry, it doesn’t take much for a fire to get going once the wind is up, regardless of the season. We could be looking at a long and busy fire season,” he said.
He said from research, they know that people do not often personalise fire risk.
“Consistently our research shows that people do understand that it is a bad bushfire day, but they don’t think it will happen to them,” he said.
“We know from our studies after major bushfires that many people are still not prepared for a bushfire and make hasty last-minute decisions, endangering their lives, and the lives of emergency services.”
He said only about 5 per cent of people had a bushfire plan, which placed them at higher risk.
“Having a plan in place ahead is vital. Think about backup options, what will happen if you’re not home when a fire starts or your family gets separated, and don’t forget about your pets or livestock,” he said.