Rural Fire Service urges caution as fire risk increases

Gearing up: The Rural Fire Service is prepared for action as the region becomes drier and the temperature rises. Photo: FILE
Gearing up: The Rural Fire Service is prepared for action as the region becomes drier and the temperature rises. Photo: FILE

After being kept busy by blazes started from lightning strikes this week, the Rural Fire Service is urging people to avoid activities that could start a fire during the current hot weather.

Crews across the region have been on high alert to respond quickly to spot fires caused by widespread lightning strikes and were also concerned with the mercury rising over 35 degrees on Friday.

Initial forecasts by the Bureau of Meteorology for a hot weekend have been revised, with most towns not expected to top 35 degrees on Saturday and even cooler temperatures on Sunday. However the heatwave will return at the end of next week.

RFS Western zone manage Paul Smith said the biggest threat would come from people who tried activities like slashing, grinding, welding near dry grass, where a stray spark could cause havoc.

“We aren’t expecting conditions to be too bad because there aren’t strong winds forecast, it is still quite humid, and some places have had a bit of rain,” he said.

“However the hot weather is drying everything out and a spark from machinery or tools could start a fire that could spread quite easily.

“So we are asking people to be aware of that and act accordingly.”

Mr Smith said there had been no significant blazes come from the lightning activity but there had been dozens of small fires across the region, mostly in trees, that had kept crews busy.

In a bid to spot any fires early, the RFS was using reconnaissance aircraft during the week, especially in heavily timbered areas.

“We covered a big region, from Boorowa and around Wyangala Dam, up to Mudgee and the Goonoo Forest and back down to the Lachlan Valley, Parkes and Forbes,” Mr Smith said.

“There is a spotter in the aircraft who is in constant radio contact so if they see any signs a crew can be sent out to deal with the fire as quick as possible.

“That’s something we do whenever there has been significant lightning activity.”

Mr Smith said now was a good time for people to be proactive and reduce the risk of bushfires and have a plan if one breaks out.

“Now is the time to prepare. Have that bushfire survival plan in place,” he said.

“We always have our systems in place and we are gearing up accordingly.

“Without more rain, the real fire danger period is going to start in the next couple of weeks.

“Some places like Blayney had 30 millimetres of rain and are fairing better but Mudgee and some of the area has had next to nothing and is quite dry.”

Mr Smith said the RFS was also encouraging people to look after their health during the hot weather and avoid being caught without water or shade when the day was hottest to avoid dehydration.

This story Rural Fire Service urges caution as fire risk increases first appeared on Central Western Daily.