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Queensland firefighters worry about bushfire season as time runs out for hazard reduction

Owen Jacques, Tuesday June 11, 2019 - 06:26 EST
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Firefighters are already cautious about what this year's season could bring. - ABC

With undergrowth thriving after heavy rain, firefighters in Queensland say hazard-reduction burns in parts of the state are almost impossible to carry out.



The rain did not fall equally across the state, so while Longreach received barely enough to wet the dirt, with 0.2 millimetres in May, the Sunshine Coast copped more than 150mm.

Cairns too was drenched with 102mm in the lead-up to winter, while Townsville had just 19mm.

The tale of two states is on the mind of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services' (QFES) Superintendent James Haig.

He said firefighters might wish for rain, but it needed to fall at the right time and in the right places so they could prepare for the looming bushfire season.

"It's one of those 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situations," Superintendent Haig said.

"We would like the right amount of rain and the right amount of soil moisture so we can get a good hazard-reduction burn in."

Parched areas of Queensland, he said, were already in the midst of hazard-reduction burns to prepare for hotter days later this year.



More fuel to burn

On the Sunshine Coast and in other places, the sodden ground and blooming greenery have made hazard-reduction burns all but impossible.

Fire crews have been watching the hills and plains become damp and green but soon the bush will "cure" in the cooler, dry weather, making it fuel for a potential blaze.

And time is running out to conduct the controlled burns.

"It has been very green and it has made hazard-reduction burning windows smaller," Superintendent Haig said.

"We've had a lot of rain. That will stimulate a lot of growth, then when conditions dry out, of course that becomes available fuel for a fire. So that is a concern."

The Bureau of Meteorology has already been forecasting a better-than-likely chance of a drier, warmer winter.

"So there's more likelihood of a fire starting and being difficult to control early on," Superintendent Haig said.

Prepare now for bushfire

Superintendent Haig said local governments across the state were already meeting to work out how best to fight the flames when the bushfire season began in either August or September.

But he said preparations would become tougher if conditions were too dry or too wet.

Superintendent Haig also warned that the size of Queensland meant the state could have a mild fire season overall, but certain communities could battle serious blazes.



He urged home and property owners to prepare now for the bushfire season.

"It doesn't have to be the worst fire season in the world if it's bad near you," he said.

"If it's bad near you, it has a major impact on your particular community, even though it's not widespread."


- ABC

© ABC 2019

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