With tinderbox conditions prevailing across large areas of Australia, those in the affected areas should prepare for an early start to a prolonged bushfire season, authorities warn.
The east coast of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, as well as parts of southern Western Australia and South Australia, face increased bushfire potential resulting from an unusually warm and dry year, and severe drought in some areas.
“The community needs to understand that fire can occur at any time and preparation is the key,” says NSW Rural Fire Service Senior Assistant Commissioner Bruce McDonald, who also reported some 1500 large running fires in the state in August.
Queensland has also been battling early fire outbreaks. Fire agencies in both states face the added problem of lack of bulk water supplies.
“It will be a challenging fire season, and we anticipate an early start and unfortunately a long season, based on the climatic conditions we have at the moment,” says the Bureau of Meteorology’s Dr David Jones.
With the southern half of the country experiencing the driest January to July period on record, significant soil moisture deficit is widespread, and dry vegetation poses a fuel risk.
Regional outlook, according to the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre
- Queensland: above normal fire potential along the coast south of Rockhampton down to the NSW border for woodland and grass vegetation, inland areas in the south, a small area west of Mackay and in the south-west of Cape York.
- Northern Territory: the Top End has had its driest wet season since 1992, combined with the hottest wet season on record, with rainfall 34% below the long-term average.
- Northern Western Australia: poor rainfall over the wet season has been offset by prescribed burning and grazing.
- Northern South Australia: a dry past 12 months, with normal fire potential expected in pastoral areas.
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has developed a mobile phone and tablet app, MyHazards, which summarises the severe weather-related and natural disaster risks that could potentially affect homes and businesses, available now for Apple devices and coming soon for Android.
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
Prevent your enterprise or its assets from going up in smoke. Talk to your local Gallagher business insurance expert today by calling 1800 240 432 for free of obligation advice and to check your policy is up to date.