The NSW South Coast is at higher risk of winter blazes than usual, a new bushfire outlook predicts. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

Environment

Winter blaze risk for fire-ravaged NSW

2020-07-11 14:58:21

Already ravaged by bushfire, the NSW South Coast has an elevated risk of fire this winter in areas not burnt during last summer’s devastating blazes, a new report predicts.

The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre on Friday released its bushfire outlook for July to September.

The report forecasts elevated fire potential during this period for areas left untouched by the 2019/20 fires in the region, which is still recovering from the impacts of those blazes.

While large parts of NSW west of the Great Diving Range have experienced welcome rain since March, the report warns that long-term rainfall deficiencies remain across the state.

Dry sub-soil conditions on the northern ranges, far north coast and South Coast are of particular concern and these areas are being monitored closely.

“Due to ongoing dry conditions and a reduced chance of above-median rainfall, above-normal fire potential is expected for the South Coast for this time of year in areas unburnt after last season’s fires,” the report said. 

“However, should a significant rain event, which has been forecast for mid-July, affect the South Coast, this is likely to decrease the fire potential for the outlook period.”

Normal fire risk is expected for the northern ranges and far north coast despite dry conditions because of an increased chance of above-average rainfall in these areas.

It comes after the Bureau of Meteorology activated the “watch” level for La Nina, meaning there is about a 50 per cent chance of the weather phenomenon forming in the coming months, which is twice the normal likelihood.

The report notes that as a result, the current rainfall outlook seems favourable for much of NSW.

“Whilst the bushfire outlook on the balance of the forecast is normal for most of NSW for the winter period, there is a need to monitor for unusual weather events (particularly windy conditions) that occasionally present during this period,” the report said.

The risk of grass fires is also being monitored as warmer-than-average temperatures, combined with recent and forecast rain, could create ideal growing conditions for grassland areas.

This has the potential to increase grassland fuel loads as it dries during summer, according to the report.

Fire management in NSW has since April focused on hazard reduction, which will continue where the weather allows in the coming months.

The NSW Rural Fire Service noted that while there was still a long way to go before the peak of the fire season, blazes could still occur. 

“It may be winter but there’s still an increased risk of fires in some parts,” the RFS posted on Twitter on Friday.

The outlook shows “increased risk on (the) Far South Coast,” the agency said.