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Wet winter points to lower bushfires risk

Above-average winter rainfall will cut the spring bushfire risk across eastern parts of Victoria and NSW and in the ACT, but authorities have warned against complacency as the danger season approaches.

AFAC, the national council for fire and emergency services, says the risk is varied across the rest of the country with parts of Western Australia and central Australia showing above-average fire potential.

Fuel loads in those areas are either fully cured or are expected to cure with warmer and drier seasonal conditions predicted in spring.

“Much of Australia has experienced above-average winter rainfall and this is expected to persist for many regions throughout spring due to a convergence of climate influences,” the AFAC outlook said.

“Historically, forest fire activity in southeast Australia is lower during a La Nina or negative Indian Ocean Dipole year.

“However, regions that see above average rainfall leading to increased grass vegetation growth can subsequently see an increase in grassfire risk during short periods of warmer and drier conditions within the season.”

Low fuel loads remain across areas in NSW, Victoria and the ACT devastated by the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are expected to have a normal risk of fire, along with regional NSW and western Victoria.

But NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Rob Rogers said normal did not mean people should be complacent.

“At the end of the day, a normal fire season can still be pretty bad,” he said.

The latest bushfire outlook used data from the new Australian Fire Danger Rating System, which comes into force on September 1.

The rating system calculates, forecasts and reports fire danger using up-to-date state fuel data, spatial and satellite imaging and weather forecasting.

The system will also introduce nationally consistent colours, signs and terminology to ensure everyone can understand the threat level and what they need to do to stay safe.

It features four fire danger ratings, ranging from moderate through to high, extreme and catastrophic.

“The way fire danger ratings are communicated has been improved and simplified, to make it easier for Australians to make decisions to stay safe on days of fire danger risk,” AFAC said.

“This means that wherever you go in Australia, and whatever the season or fuels you’re surrounded with, you can understand the level of threat and what you need to do to stay safe.

“The key benefit is a more prepared and resilient community resulting in a reduction in loss of life, property, and human harm.”

AFAC is holding a conference in Adelaide this week.

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