Making hay before the sun shines too much

It may seem churlish on the first day of summer, after a record rainfall and a colder than average spring when residents simply want to bask in a little rare warmth, to start talking about bushfires.

But to be forewarned is to be fore-armed and this year even the milder and wetter conditions in their own way have coloured how we should prepare for the coming fire season.

The good news is we have a little more time on our side.

The grass curing map of Victoria shows the Ballarat region is still very much a green area where the spring growth has not yet dried out.

But at the same time this then becomes a matter of not if but when the fire danger period is upon us. The key added factor influencing this year’s position is the very wet spring that has put us so much at ease and swollen the fuel loads.

So much so that Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre has escalated the threat and warned fast-moving grassfires are the primary threat this bushfire season.

A hotter- and drier-than-average December is expected to rapidly dry out that blush of green leaving plenty to burn when fires take hold over the summer.

That means those verdant roadsides, paddocks and reserves now standing in some places over three feet high in lush grass will soon turn from spring bounty to summer threat.  

Every state is at increased risk of grassfires but the fire-prone parts of Victoria are at particular risk.

Dr Richard Thornton has argued one of the dangers of a season like this is complacency because grassfires are underestimated  and people readily associate bushfires with TV images of forests burning. But he said the fuel load in predominantly grassed areas  is indicative of just how intense even deadly these kind of fires can be.

Numerous fires in past years that have threatened housing in Lucas, Alfredton and Cardigan and other areas far from forests have been exactly these kind of fires; innocuous at first but fast moving and potentially deadly.

Residents will not being looking forward to revisiting those anxious days so preparation is vital. So too is residents vigilance as many such fires have proved to be arson. With the right combination of both and swift emergency response the summer may still be something to celebrate.