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Tasmanians warned of early start to bushfire season following dry winter

Gregor Salmon, Friday September 29, 2017 - 17:38 EST
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Authorities warn Tasmania could see a number of difficult-to-control bushfires this season. - ABC licensed

While a , the public is being warned the bushfire season may arrive within weeks.

Last summer, .

This year, authorities have warned the bushfire season might make an early start — even before the end of spring — particularly on the east coast following an exceptionally dry winter.

The forecast, , warns a lack of rain, soil dryness and high fuel loads elevated the bushfire risk in an area taking in the east coast from Binalong Bay south and pushing into the midlands around Oatlands.

"Back in June, much of the eastern part of the state was record low [rainfall] — the driest 10 per cent of all the records we've got," the Bureau of Meteorology's acting state manager Simon McCulloch said.

Although rains came in July and August, the east coast has been left with an underlying dryness in both vegetation and soil.

For the rest of the state, the anticipated danger falls into the "normal" category.

But Jeff Harper from the Tasmania Fire Services warned that "normal" was no cause for complacency in one of the "highest bushfire-prone areas in the world".

"For Tasmania that means we will have a number of total fire ban days, we will have a number of fires that will impact on communities and fires that will be extremely difficult to control," the acting deputy chief said.

'Potential for repeat' of 2013 Dunalley catastrophe

Mr Harper said on the east coast, the finer fuels — those smaller than a finger, the first to catch alight — were ready to burn.

"For that area, the majority of it is either 90 or 100 per cent available to burn, right now — and we've just come out of winter," Mr Harper said

He said the potential was there for the kind of fires that ripped through Dunalley, destroying 63 homes and the school, in 2013.

"Fires similar to 2013 through the Tasman Peninsular — yes, that type of potential anyway," Mr Harper said.

Mr Harper said now was the time for the public to put their minds to bushfire plans and preparedness.

"Have they cleaned their gutters? Have they filled those gaps underneath the eaves? Have they mowed the lawns?" he said.

Mr Harper said the TFS would be ramping up its community engagement on top of their public messaging and stressed the public's responsiveness was a key factor in bushfire prevention.

"The community is embracing those messages and proactively working at managing fire in the vegetation, the landscape, better," he said.

The TFS plans to conduct 170 fuel reduction burns over the next few weeks depending on suitable weather conditions.


© ABC 2017

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