The ACT bushfire season started on 1 October and comes after the ACT experienced its driest winter since 1982.
While the ACT recently received about 10mm of rain, Chief Officer of the ACT Rural Fire Service, Joe Murphy, said it had just pushed away the elevated fire dangers for a couple of weeks.
Although conditions are similar to last year, Mr Murphy warned that “we have seen a further drying out of the landscape. There is less moisture in the soil then there was last year”.
He said the ACT would need at least 200mm of rain to improve conditions – “but we don’t want that in one go, otherwise the SES is going to be extraordinarily busy”. And according to the Bureau of Meteorology, he said “there’s no chance of that happening over the next three months”.
“The Bureau is predicting the next three months to be very dry, very sparse with rain, so we can expect to see the landscape continue to dry out, the local dams continue to dry and, hopefully, no fires.”
ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Mick Gentleman, is urging the community to prepare for the bushfire season as well as to ensure they understand Fire Danger Rating levels and what that means for their preparedness.
The ACT Government has also released the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan Version 4, which plays a key role in emergency preparedness across the Territory.
It focusses on how emergency services will prepare for increased risks posed by climate change and was described by ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan as a “five-year roadmap to keep Canberra safe”.
The official bushfire season for the ACT began on 1 October and runs through until 31 March 2020 unless conditions warrant an extension.
Visit esa.act.gov.au to check if you live in a Bushfire Prone Area, see bushfire danger levels and warnings, get fact sheets and view the new management plan.
Protecting first responders
In related news, Minister Gentleman also announced the ACT Government’s plans to create new laws to protect ACT police, firefighters, and paramedics through a new offences for assaults against first responders and for driving at police and their vehicles.
He said the legislation is in response to increased violence to frontline officers and has been called for by their respective unions.
“We want to protect our first responders as they put themselves in harm’s way keeping our community safe,” he said.
Work has already started on developing the bill which will be considered for introduction in the ACT Legislative Assembly later this year.