Heavy rain across inland New South Wales may have drenched the catchments and led to flooding, but there are fears it could also exacerbate the risk of bushfires this summer.
- Predictions of above-average fire potential for inland NSW remain
- Recent rain may increase fuel loads by encouraging grass growth
- A delayed crop harvest also presents a risk
The National Council for Fire and Emergency Services released its summer outlook for fire risk a fortnight ago.
It predicted above-average fire potential for regions such as Tamworth and the Liverpool Plains, the Central West, and the Riverina.
The director of National Projects, Rob Webb, said the rain had not decreased the risk, and was likely to have encouraged more grass growth.
“As the heat of summer comes in … the grass will cure very quickly,” Mr Webb said.
The Bureau of Meteorology has declared a La Nina and forecast a wetter-than-average summer, but Mr Webb said that did not mean there would be rain every day.
“If you do get those periods of one or two weeks of dry, then you do have conditions out there than can carry a fire,” he said.
Fire crews alert
The warning comes as farmers across the state race to harvest crops ahead of any further rainfall, with some in northern NSW now significantly behind schedule as the weather warms up.
The Dubbo-based manager of the Orana Rural Fire Service (RFS), Mark Pickford, said there had already been multiple header fires in the region.
“If a crop is dry enough to harvest, then that crop is generally dry enough to burn,” he said.
Mr Pickford said the fire hazard presented by grass growth might not be an immediate concern, but would escalate as conditions dried out.
Mr Pickford reminded people that despite any wet weather, the bushfire danger period remained.
“Don’t be fooled into the fact that if it’s all green around that you won’t need a permit this year; you still require a permit to do a burn,” he said.