The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018.
The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018. Ben Shepherd

300 fires in two months, now brace for fire season

THREE hundred.

That's around how many fire incidents have occurred in the Northern Rivers since July 1, and things aren't predicted to get better with a grim outlook for the fire season ahead.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) said with much of southern Australia experiencing a combination of above average temperatures and below average rainfall this year, large parts of the country face above normal bushfire potential over the coming months.

The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018 shows the warmer and drier than average weather over recent months, combined with the forecasts for spring, suggest the whole of the east coast in NSW is expecting above-normal fire potential - and that is forested country where the most people live.

The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2018 is used by fire authorities to make strategic decisions on resource planning and prescribed fire management for the upcoming fire season.

RFS Superintendent Boyd Townsend they could "reasonably rely" on such forecasts most years but things could always turn out differently.

But he said at this stage it's holding fairly true.

He said the recent rain event was only a small amount of rainfall and was a very coastal event.

"Whilst it has given us some respite, without significant follow up we will be back to a similar dry situation within a week or two," Supt Townsend said.

"Given that forecast, the Northern Rivers area is issuing permits in a very limited way. It's still dry out there."

He said the amount of incidents since July 1 in the Northern Rivers was double what they would normally see over the local government areas of Lismore, Kyogle and Richmond Valley.

"Everyone needs to be aware of the fact we could be walking into a further dangerous fire season," he said.

"Every town is sitting within rural and agricultural land so everyone needs to be prepared with a bushfire survival plan."

The Seasonal Bushfire Outlook will be reviewed towards the end of spring to take into account the impacts of actual temperatures and rainfall in the lead up to summer.

Drought Declared

The Bushfire Outlook states conditions have been exceptionally dry over New South Wales during 2018.

"At the end of August, the Department of Primary Industries mapped nearly all of NSW being in some state of drought, with 21 per cent classified as in intense drought, 49 per cent experiencing drought conditions, and a further 30 per cent as drought affected," it reads.

"Widespread significant soil moisture deficit has resulted in an early start to the fire danger period for many local government areas in NSW. Windy conditions in August resulted in many significant bushfires in forested areas up and down the east coast.

"With the short to medium-range climate outlooks favouring warmer and drier than average conditions across much of the state, there is significant concern for the potential of an above normal fire season in forested areas on and east of the Divide."

Climate Influences

The Bushfire Outlook stated the climate outlook for spring is mainly influenced by the Pacific and Indian Oceans, together with other factors including long-term trends.

"The Pacific and Indian Ocean are neutral, though the development of an El Nino and positive IOD is possible.

"The outlook for September and spring rainfall shows an increased likelihood of below average rainfall in the south east.

"The outlook for spring maximum temperatures favours above average daytime temperatures for nearly all of Australia."