After an unseasonably bleak start to December, Ballarat might be forgiven for wondering if Summer will ever start. But the middle of this week promises to bring the heat back with some sweltering mid-thirties days.
While this may be good news for school kids pining to be out of the classroom and into the pool, it also heralds the first of the days when the fire danger really begins to ramp up.
The downfalls in November may not have been as torrential as predicted or equal what fell elsewhere but what can be guaranteed is all this rain will add to late growth which in turn will dry out as the summer proceeds further adding to fuel loads.
The opportunities for burning off have passed so the emphasis has now shifted to minimising the risk of starting fires and maximising the preparedness in the event of any emergency
As always 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 but not much.
It 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 November rain that has put us so much at ease and swollen the fuel loads.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre’s outlook on fire danger has drawn a boundary squarely through the middle of Victoria about where the high fire risk was in November. So far Ballarat has fared better than the east and many of the lower parts of the state but to assume it will stay like this could be dangerous complacency.
With the effect of a La Nina system to be blunted by Indian Ocean influences this could mean hotter- and drier-than-average summer and the grass curing will occur much sooner than we realise.
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. They may only be grassfires but with a hot northerly behind them , it is no secret how fast they can move.
Booming suburbs in Lucas, Delacombe and Cardigan, all far from forests have seen exactly these kind of fires; innocuous at first but fast moving and potentially deadly. Worth reassesing the risks.