It’s been a cold and miserable winter, but summer is coming and could last for up to five months – a prediction that has Victorian fire authorities worried.
The extra-long summer combined with below-average rainfall that has left most parts of the state with dry soil and vegetation could be a recipe for disaster, Emergency Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley says.
Victoria is one of the most fire-prone regions in the world, and while everyone should be on alert, Mr Lapsley said central and western Victoria are already the driest parts of the state.
“We expect between 4500 and 5000 bushfires and grassfires across the state,” Mr Lapsley told reporters on Wednesday.
“You could draw very generic lines from Sunbury to Ballarat to Horsham and then from Horsham to Bendigo to show the areas of concern.”
He said Victorians should prepare their properties for the fire season now because leaving it until November or December could be too late.
Firefighting efforts will be bolstered by a $23 million fleet of 47 specialist aircraft including two large air tankers and 24 helicopters.
Emergency Services minister Jane Garrett said some of the aircraft also use infra-red scanners to pick up hot spots within fires that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
“We’re bracing for a long, hot and dry summer fire season and these aircraft will help protect communities which may come under threat of bushfires,” she told reporters.
Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Dr Karl Braganza said a series of weather events including a Pacific Ocean El Nino are more likely to bring a long period of hot, dry weather over the warmer months.
AREAS MOST AT RISK OF BUSHFIRE THIS SUMMER
* Yarra Valley
* Dandenong Ranges
* Outskirts of Melbourne in growth corridors.
TIPS FOR THE FIRE SEASON
* Prepare your property in spring by clearing any vegetation
* Have your fire plan ready
* Avoid visiting high risk areas such as the 1000 steps in the Dandenong Ranges on Code Red days.