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National alert for earlier, more severe bushfire season 2017‒2018

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Tinderbox conditions across the country were top of the agenda at the Australian Fire Authorities Council emergency management conference held in Sydney 4‒6 September.

Three thousand fire commissioners from around Australia and New Zealand gathered to hear and discuss the latest in disaster-related research and experience in preparation for what has been tipped as above normal bushfire conditions for the coming spring and summer 2017‒2018.

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre’s (CRC) latest seasonal outlook for the northern and southern Australia has predicted heightened fire risk as a result of the warmest ever and ninth driest winter on record. At almost 2 degrees Celsius above the national seasonal average it was the hottest winter on record for Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory, and among the top three for New South Wales and South Australia.

 

National alert

The CRC outlook released 6 September puts all states on notice:

  • South-east Queensland can expect an above average fire season after record winter temperatures
  • Victoria faces a stronger chance of an early start to fire season, with spring conditions contributing to bushfire severity
  • below average rainfall in New South Wales has created a dry fuel load particularly in the eastern forested areas
  • Tasmania has also sustained a dry winter
  • the ACT conditions present above normal risk due to upper soil and forest fuel dryness
  • last year’s abundant growth in South Australia has dried out, increasing bushfire risk in the north and central south
  • Western Australia’s south-west recorded its driest autumn in five years, also increasing dry fuel risk.

 

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, prevailing higher than average pressure has prevented evaporative cooling, the process where liquid water is converted into atmospheric water vapour, but lack of rainfall means there has been little moisture on the ground, while the same high pressure systems have prevented rain in the north and acted as a barrier to the cold fronts that normally bring rain in the south.

 

Bushfire season and business risk

The Department of Emergency Services warns that businesses need to be conscious of the potential effects of fires, which can include:

  • major infrastructure and stock loss
  • lost productivity
  • financial losses
  • fatalities and injuries
  • loss of agricultural farming land, livestock, crops or fodder
  • staff unemployment
  • bankruptcy. 

Prevent your enterprise or its assets from going up in smoke. Talk to one of Arthur J. Gallagher’s business insurance experts today by calling 1800 240 432 or visiting www.ajg.com.au/insurance-solutions for free of obligation advice.