Prepare for February fire risk

FIRE authorities are bracing for a prolonged period of heightened fire danger across the state in the coming days.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the peak of the fire season has only just arrived and lack of rain has completely dried most areas of grassland and bush across Victoria.

“The forecast for the coming days is for hot, dry weather with Fire Danger Ratings either Severe or Very High. In these types of conditions, if a fire starts and takes hold, it may be uncontrollable.

“Traditionally, we know that February is a bad month for fires. While we have had a reprieve from the heat last week, it will only take a few days of hot weather like we have coming up next week, to be faced with severe or extreme fire danger again.”

The latest data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows rainfall across the state during the past month, was well below average.

“This combined with heavy fuel-loads caused by rains and flooding across the state over the past couple of years means we are faced with a serious fire risk,” he said.

Gippsland regional controller Anthony Costigan said this summer parts of the region had already been placed under the threat of fire with the Aberfeldy-Donnelly bushfire, which has burnt more than 74,000 hectares, was still being controlled.

“Tragically we saw someone lose their life in this fire and had a number of homes destroyed. It is a harsh reminder of the risk we all face when it comes to fire and the need to always be prepared,” he said.

“We’ve seen cooler temperatures and rain in parts of Gippsland last week but people should not become complacent.

“February is normally our hottest month and it won’t take long for the small amount of rain we’ve had to evaporative. The area still remains extremely dry.

“Even without the high temperatures we are at risk of fast-running coastal and grassfires which are wind driven, we all need to remain vigilant because the summer fire season is far from over.”´╗┐