COMMENT: Spring forecast should activate fire alarm

We might be not clear of winter quite yet, and no doubt it will throw a couple of spiteful cold days at us before it departs, but spring is just two weeks away. Already, it’s shaping up to be warmer than average and dry.

That forecast continues the trend we saw over winter: warmer daytime temperatures and very little rain. July was easily Australia's hottest on record for daytime temperatures and June was the seventh-warmest, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Add the wind that’s been howling all too frequently lately and it’s not good news. It’s bad for our gardens and potentially catastrophic for the bush that surrounds us.

A glance at the Rural Fire Service Fires Near Me app on Thursday afternoon looked portentous, with blaze icons stretching all the way from Wollongong to the Queensland border. Many were hazard reduction burns; many were not.

Hazard burns are being brought forward because conditions are looking increasingly hazardous, with the fuel loads in bushland having dried out through winter.

The South Coast and Far South Coast have already been identified as areas of concern. The RFS is urging residents to begin preparing for the upcoming bushfire season, which is likely to be brought forward because of the warm, dry and windy conditions.

The usual advice to clear leaves and litter from gutters and from around the house is being dispensed, as well as the plea to get onto the RFS website and download the bushfire survival plan.

Residents have been also been asked to postpone pile burns when the wind is up. As the clock tick downs to permit time, some people have been risking disaster to get the piles burnt.

The three-month weather outlook for spring has given that advice extra urgency.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the weather conditions that add to the fire risk. Thoughtlessness and stupidity should also be factored in. Just last week a grass fire was ignited in Nowra by a discarded cigarette butt. Fires have been deliberately lit in the Shoalhaven and the Illawarra.

It’s up to all of us to help mitigate the risk of bushfires. Smokers need to change their behaviour and ensure they don’t carelessly flick their butts on the ground or out of car windows. Doing the latter will attract a big fine if the offender is caught. Parents need to ensure their kids aren’t out lighting fires that can quickly get out of control.