Emergency services are preparing for this fire season to be among the worst experienced across the state.
Organisations prepared for a long, dry summer that will see an extended fire season at a pre-summer briefing for firefighters and other emergency service personnel.
Forest Fire Management Victoria’s Loddon Mallee regional manager Allyson Lardner said current fire conditions were equal to some of Victoria’s worst seasons.
“It's very, very dry. It's not number one but it is well and truly up there in the top 10,” she said.
Country Fire Authority operations manager Bill Johnstone said firefighters were expecting an extended fire season to keep emergency services busy
“It’s predicted to be hot and dry for extended periods so we’re looking at an extended summer,” he said.
“The fire season for us will probably extend from mid-October to late-April and we are expecting quite a bit of operation activity between that.”
Ten agencies attended the pre-summer briefing on Tuesday morning to discuss preparations for the summer and any changes in procedure since last summer.
“It's an opportunity for our incident management people to come together and ask some questions,” Mr Johnstone said.
“From us, depending on the weather, people will probably see heightened responses with more vehicles responding to fires more often.
“Our aircraft fleet is same as last year but we will have a more strategic approach to how they are deployed.
“On a ground level, we been through a winter with more recruiting and training to constantly build our operational capabilities to meet the demands of the summer.”
Mr Johnstone said the message for the community at the moment was clear.
“Get ready and get ready now,” he said. “The community needs to prepare for the summer. That's a constant theme – undertake works now before its too late.
“We want to make sure the community is ready and get our messaging out there so when a fire event happens, the community will know something is going on and what we expect them to do.”
Ms Lardner said FFM Victoria was preparing for a short window where firefighters could complete controlled burns.
“We are looking to target the work we do in a very limited (time) to really focus our efforts and get the biggest bang for our buck,” she said.
“Key burns for spring will be around protection of assets near key towns like Rushworth, Castlemaine and Inglewood.
“Our recruitment programs have finished, we have five (new) project firefighters which brings us to 53 seasonal workers in total.
“That's in response to the significant conditions we are facing over the next few months.”
Residents should prepare and be vigilant
The CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria is urging residents to prepare and stay vigilant ahead of a long fire season.
FFM Victorian Loddon Mallee regional manager Allyson Lardner also urged people to be vigilant.
“We want people to know what's going on and know the rules around things like campfires,” she said.
“Campfires were one of our biggest issues last year. The impact area was less but the number of unattended campfires was higher, which is concerning for us.”
Ms Lardner and Mr Johnstone said residents should be preparing their properties for summer.
“We can’t only rely (solely) on burn offs for fuel management,” she said. “We will also we run significant mechanical treatment with lots of slashing and mowing, removal of trash and piles of debris and vegetation.
“We would encourage private land owners, particularly those that are adjacent to public land, to keep properties tidy while looking out for themselves as well as their communities. Be vigilant and prepare before the peak of the season hits.”
CFA operations manager Bill Johnstone said while there was a perception that central Victoria wasn’t affected by serious bushfires last summer, emergency services were still kept busy.
“We had a very busy summer, not just in the bushfire space,” he said.
“We can provide data that shows we had an incredible amount of operational activity was very high from the far north-west right through the rest of the state.
“There was a significant storm event before Christmas which tied us up for more than just the event. The recovery took days and weeks. We had a busy summer without fire.”
Mr Johnstone said people should be aware of their surroundings as this year’s fire season approaches.
“When we issue a message, people should take notice, engage with their community and media outlets to understand what environment you're in at a certain time,” he said.
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