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Dry conditions prompt extended bushfire season

The 2018/19 bushfire season in the ACT has been extended till the end of April, resulting in the longest declared bushfire season since 2003.

Traditionally, the bushfire season starts on 1 October and runs through until 31 March, unless conditions warrant a variation. This year, the bushfire season started a month early on 1 September 2018 and will now finish a month later on 30 April, marking an eight-month bushfire season.

ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) Commissioner Dom Lane said while the ACT has been fortunate to see some rain, “the underlying soil dryness at this point in time means that we need to extend the fire season”.

“If we are lucky enough to see in the next couple of weeks some significant rain come through, we will shorten the season,” Mr Lane said. “But we need to plan for the fact if it does stay dry, as we’ve seen significantly through many of our recent autumns over the last 10 or 15 years, then I think we will see more of this.”

So far this bushfire season, the ACT has experienced five total fire ban days. As we progress through March, the ACT ESA said the region is still experiencing days of elevated fire danger (into the Very High rating).

With the extended bushfire season, it is a timely reminder for the community to remain aware, while there is also the opportunity to help shape the next five years of bushfire management in the ACT.

The ACT ESA and the Environment Planning Sustainability Development Directorate are running a community consultation program for the ACT’s Strategic Bushfire Management Plan.

ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said “we’re asking the community to share their ideas, values and expectations for the plan”.

“The Strategic Bushfire Management Plan sets out how bushfire risk is strategically managed in the ACT. The plan is reviewed every five years in consultation with stakeholders and the community,” he said. “This important overarching document directs bushfire management throughout the ACT. The plan allows our emergency services and fire managers to flexibly implement measures to reduce bushfire risk.”

Mr Lane said there is an emphasis on community recovery from an economic, social and environmental perspective in the plan and encouraged the community to have their say.

“We have to recognise the inevitability of bushfire. And whilst once again Canberra has got through this bushfire season without any significant bushfires as we’ve seen in other parts of the country from Queensland to Tasmania, that risk is ever present and it’s only a matter of time before we see those conditions come together here in the ACT.”

Four community forums to discuss the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan will be hosted by ACT ESA at venues across Canberra starting on Tuesday 2 April.

Find out how you can be involved at esa.act.gov.au

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