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Bushfire Outlook Grim But Not Black Summer, Yet

Nov 30, 2023

The Australian fire season is gearing up, and the recently released Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for summer 2023 by AFAC (the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services) signals a heightened risk for several regions across the country. 

NSW and, particularly, the Hawkesbury region are on high alert as the forecast warmer than average temperatures set the stage for a challenging summer. 

“Given the current drought, potential rainfall evaporation in hot weather, and large areas having potential to carry fire, there is a significant risk of above normal fire potential across large parts of NSW,” the Outlook said.

Areas of increased fire risk in NSW this summer.

The recovery of forested areas burnt during Black Summer has been unusually rapid, allowing them to carry fast-moving and dangerous bushfires. It noted that this challenges the typical assumption that recently burned areas would limit the spread of new fires. With an uncertain summer rainfall outlook and a confident forecast for above-normal temperatures, coastal western and northern NSW face a significant risk of increased fire potential.

For the Hawkesbury region, still bearing the scars of the 2019-20 Gospers Mountain fires, recent rain has spurred on vegetation growth, adding to the fuel for the upcoming fire season. The forecast of higher than average temperatures means that the fuel load will dry out quickly increasing their flammability.

The Outlook said that during spring, below-normal rainfall and above-average temperatures quickly dried out soils, forest fuels, and grasses, enabling fires to spread rapidly. As summer approaches, many parts of NSW remain in drought or are drier than usual, with the landscape expected to dry out rapidly after any rainfall. Above-average rainfall in previous years has led to high grass fuel loads, especially in areas previously affected by the Black Summer fires.

 AFAC CEO Rob Webb emphasizes the importance of community preparedness. State and territory fire authorities will closely monitor local conditions throughout summer, urging communities to stay informed, prepared, and vigilant. 

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