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Bushfire season starts early across northern Australia due to ongoing hot, dry conditions

By Andree Withey, Thursday June 27, 2019 - 12:20 EST
ABC image
Drier seasons and less frequent rain has meant a gradually worsening bushfire outlook in Queensland. - ABC

Northern Australia is facing an early start to what experts believe will be a higher than average potential bushfire season across parts of Queensland.

The 2019 Northern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook, released today, warns that exceptionally higher than average temperatures and low soil moisture have increased the risk of bushfires, even though there has been rain in some coastal areas.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Service acting director for rural fire Tony Johnstone is warning that fires are already occurring in some places.

"In Queensland, the bushfire season normally starts in August — but there has already been erratic fires this month around Warwick and Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt, and around Longreach in the state's central west," he said.

The outlook is for above normal fire potential expected in forested areas along the coast south of Rockhampton down to the NSW border for woodland and grass fuels, inland areas in the south, a small area west of Mackay and in the south west of Cape York.

Normal fire potential is expected for other parts of Queensland.

Mr Johnstone said the Queensland bushfire threat had been building over the past decade.

"We have been seeing a trend since 2009 where we are getting drier seasons and less frequent rain and we are seeing less moisture getting into the soil which either stunts growth or stresses trees," he said.

"Property owners need to be looking at what resources they have and when they want to do their prescribed burns or change it a little due to the conditions."

if or when fires pose a significant threat.

Mr Johnstone said there was even an early bushfire risk in areas of Brisbane.

"It's about everyone contributing to the awareness and being prepared if a fire does start that we can contain the fire and extinguish it or get the most appropriate resources there."

In Queensland, there are 38,000 staff and volunteers ready to fight fires.

Mr Johnstone said firefighters in the Northern Territory and Western Australia have also been dealing with early bushfires.

"They are being contained but they are exceptionally fast-moving fires for this time of the year."

The outlook found below-average rainfall across much of the Top End had resulted in mainly average and below average fuel loads, while in northern WA the bushfire threat was expected to be normal this year.


© ABC 2019

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