Rural Fire Service predicts fire danger to peak in February after mild start to summer

Better year: There are no signs of the horrific bushfires that occurred in January 2017 but the Rural Fire Service is remaining vigilant. Photo: Wolter Peeters
Better year: There are no signs of the horrific bushfires that occurred in January 2017 but the Rural Fire Service is remaining vigilant. Photo: Wolter Peeters

JANUARY 2017 saw some devastating bushfires across the Central West, including blazes that destroyed thousands of hectares north of Bathurst.

But a milder summer has firefighters optimistic 2018 will be better.

Lower temperatures and occasional rain have kept conditions better and despite some hot weather over the Christmas-New Year period, the Rural Fire Service isn’t expecting to see a high fire danger period until the end of the month.

However, RFS Region West manager Paul Smith said that February and March could be bad months if more rain doesn’t come and is urging people to remain vigilant.

“Because of the dry wind and hot days in the last couple of weeks a lot of moisture has disappeared from the ground and there is more combustible material,” Mr Smith said.

“However there was also widespread rain around the region that delivered between 10 and 30 millimetres so that has helped.

There is a 60 per cent chance of above average rainfall for parts of Western NSW for the rest of summer and March. Photo: Bureau of Meteorology

There is a 60 per cent chance of above average rainfall for parts of Western NSW for the rest of summer and March. Photo: Bureau of Meteorology

“The number of fires are significantly down on what we would expect for summer but we expect more hot days so the end of January and February are when we expect the fire danger period to start.”

The number of fires RFS members had to attend in recent weeks was significantly lower than the same period in recent years, Mr Smith said.

“Most of the fires were only small. There was the fire at the pub at the Barringun, which was a real shame for residents there,” he said.

“We didn’t have any big fires that burned a lot of ground or caused a lot of damage. “The good work of our volunteers ensured that any fires that did break out were quickly contained.”

Good result: An unusually quiet summer has given the NSW Rural Fire Service a reprieve, with just one fire burning in Western NSW as of Tuesday. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

Good result: An unusually quiet summer has given the NSW Rural Fire Service a reprieve, with just one fire burning in Western NSW as of Tuesday. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

The only fire burning in Western NSW on Tuesday according to the RFS was a 15-hectare grass fire at Gooloogong, near Cowra.

Information from the Bureau of Meteorology suggested temperatures would get hotter in the coming weeks, Mr Smith said.

“We haven’t really had a lot of what I’d call fire days, which are days that are really hot, dry and windy, so the danger was quite low,” he said.

“I would expect that we might start to see some more total fire ban days in the coming weeks.”

He asked people to look for fires and report them to triple-zero early to ensure they could be contained.

“Most people have a break in January and they should use that time to make a fire plan in case they need it,” Mr Smith said.