NSW RFS Mid Coast District notes positive weather pattern ahead of 2020/2021 fire season

A night to remember: Scenes like this on Ocean Drive, Lake Cathie just south of RSL LifeCare facility confronted firies on October 29 in 2019. Photo: Steve Drew
A night to remember: Scenes like this on Ocean Drive, Lake Cathie just south of RSL LifeCare facility confronted firies on October 29 in 2019. Photo: Steve Drew

The 2020/2021 fire season is set to be a very different one from 2019/2020 if the recent weather pattern continues to prevail.

March 31 marked the official end to the most devastating bush fire season in the state's history.

During the peak of the fires on the Mid North Coast in November 2019, there was a single fatality.

The Lindfield Park peat fire made for an early start to the fire season in 2019. It wreaked havoc for firefighters and posed a threat to the Port Macquarie community for over six months from July 2019.

On February 12 the fire was officially declared as extinguished due to a deluge of rainfall on the fire ground. The location is currently inundated with water, due to the continued rain.

Areas of the Mid North Coast, which were reduced to black trees and vegetation of debris have recovered quickly, with green growth signalling positive signs of regeneration.

Area of the wetland south west of Port Macquarie Airport after rain in February. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

Area of the wetland south west of Port Macquarie Airport after rain in February. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

NSW Rural Fire Service Mid Coast district officer Stuart Robb said across the region there has been a return to more average weather conditions over recent months.

Mr Robb made reference to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI), which is a measure of drought conditions.

It is commonly used for the purpose of predicting the likelihood and severity of wildfire and is calculated based on rainfall, air temperature and other meteorological factors.

In June 2019 the KBDI across the Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA was 140, Mr Robb said. It is currently less than 10.

"When the index is over 100 fires will burn actively, over 150 we may experience extreme fire behaviour," he said.

Hazard reduction work is currently being undertaken by the service as weather permits.

The plan for the process differs according to each individual location and the numerous factors which have to be taken into consideration.

Traditionally hazard reduction burns have been carried out during spring and autumn, which are the ideal periods to carry out the process.

In 2019 the method of using fire to carry out hazard reduction burns couldn't be utilised to the same extent as traditional seasons, due to the outbreak of the peat fire at Lindfield Park in July and the assessed risk to the community.

Due to the dry conditions, in 2019 the bushfire danger period for the Mid-North Coast was pushed forward a month by NSW Rural Fire Service and commenced on August 1.

Over 600 new members have joined RFS brigades across the Mid Coast District in response to the 2019 fire season, which Mr Robb said has significantly bolstered the operational capability across the area.

He said while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented some challenges with regard to training, over the past eight weeks 450 members have participated in 52 sessions, across 11 different RFS qualifications and via online delivery.

This is a massive increase, as Mr Robb said coming into a typical season there would be on average about 120 new members.

"We're seeing a fivefold increase for membership this year," he said.

Assessments are expected to take place in July and August.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology the July to September and August to October periods likely to be wetter than average for most of mainland Australia.

  • To stay up to date with fires across the Mid North Coast and regional NSW, please download the Fires Near Me App, or visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
  • Residents are encouraged to prepare their property for potential fires by creating a fire survival plan. Go to www.myfireplan.com.au

Comments