The fire season is shaping up for a deadly, early start.
The land is dry, dams are empty and river levels are low.
The green landscape of central Victoria, including Bendigo, is, perhaps, lulling us into a false sense of security.
Winter rains which provide a buttress against wildfire heading into spring haven’t arrived and, as a result, the fire season could start four to six weeks early – in late October or early November.
The CFA has warned everyone to start preparations early too. We all need to heed that warning.
Bendigo is ringed by bushland. It makes the city a beautiful place to live, but it also increases the fire risk.
On Black Saturday the Maiden Gully fire tracked through bushland to within kilometres of the city’s CBD. A life was lost. Homes were destroyed.
It taught us that being in a city does not make you immune from the ravages of bushfires – something that events in the Northern summer have reinforced. In Greece fire decimated resorts on the outskirts of Athens, killing 79. Towns have been evacuated in the US states of Oregon, Utah, California, New Mexico and Washington State ahead of firestorms. Canada has fought 5490 fires since early April. Heatwaves had dried out the land, leaving behind the fuel for fires to run.
It sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?
Spring and summer in central Victoria are predicted to be warmer, drier. Perfect conditions for the land to become a tinderbox. So Forest Fire Management are planning. They are looking to recruit 49 firefighters for the Murray Goldfields district, five more than usual. They will be looking at the weather, the undergrowth, the risks – and planning.
It’s something we should all be doing.
Clear rubbish from around your home. Write down a fire plan – put it on the fridge and keep adding to it. Look at your escape routes. Plan to leave early, but also plan how you’ll survive if you can’t flee.
And when the weather turns and the fires arrive listen to and act on the warnings. Your life may depend on it.