NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner warns: Don't be complacent this summer

LOCAL HEROES: A brave fire fighter battles a blaze in Belmont during the horrific 2019/20 Black Summer fire season. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.
LOCAL HEROES: A brave fire fighter battles a blaze in Belmont during the horrific 2019/20 Black Summer fire season. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Story in partnership with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

With the state experiencing good Spring rains and positive seasonal conditions, the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is issuing a stark warning to all residents: things can change very quickly.

Deputy Commissioner Peter McKechnie says we must not be complacent when it comes to bush fire preparedness this summer.

While we may not have the same drought conditions that helped fuel the devastating Black Summer Fires in 2019/20, he says, we still do face some potential hazards.

"While we have had some good rains over the last couple of weeks, we're still heading into summer in south eastern Australia, we're going to see hot and dry conditions," Deputy Commissioner McKechnie explained.

"We've had significant grass growth across the state and that has increased through the Spring period. Added to that is an expectation for bumper crops this year, which is amazing for the farming communities but ultimately brings with it greater threat of grass and crop fires for those communities, both of which can start easily and spread quickly."

The Deputy Commissioner also warned there was still a significant risk for bushfires too. While the Black Summer fires burnt their way through 5.5 million hectares, that is still a small proportion of the state's forests.

As such, he says, it is important for everybody in vulnerable areas - be they farmers or people living on the interfaces - to make sure they're doing their Bushfire Survival Plans this year.

They need to speak to their families and know what they will do if fire threatens. They need to know where they'll go, he says, and importantly when they'll go.

People also need to start preparing their properties. If you live on the edge of town, this means trimming back trees and removing combustible materials from around the house. It means keeping the lawn mowed and having a hose that extends the whole way around the house.

"If you're a farmer, you've got a lot more work to do," Deputy Commissioner McKechnie said.

"You need to ask: what parts of your property can you slash? Where are you focusing your grazing? Have you put a plough break around every paddock? Because all of that will help stop fire spread," he said.

He also said it was important to have a plan for your livestock; to ensure your machinery is being properly maintained; and to make sure access roads are properly maintained, so if the NSW RFS is called to your property, they can get a fire truck through.

Likewise, if you are doing hazard reduction burning on your property, you need to get a fire safety permit and notify both your neighbours and the local fire services 24 hours before the burn. You also need to have proper fire fighting equipment handy to keep it under control.

Deputy Commissioner McKechnie recommends all people across NSW download the Fires Near Me App, so they can receive push notifications about any threats in their area.

At the end of the day, he says, bushfire prevention and readiness is a shared responsibility. When fires get out of control, their effects can be devastating, and the damage indiscriminate. That's why we all need to do our part to keep our families and communities safe.

"If you live near the bush then you are living with the risk of fires so you need to live bush fire ready," Deputy Commissioner McKechnie said.

"We need people to take this seriously and get ready now instead of just waiting to see what happens. Take those necessary steps - prepare your property and have that all-important discussion about your bush fire survival plan," he continued.

"What you do can potentially save not just your life but those in your community and our NSW RFS firefighters. The best way to fight a large fire is to keep it small. The worst thing we can do is be complacent."

For more information or to access fire readiness resources, visit the NSW RFS website: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/farm-fire-safety

This story NSW RFS Deputy Commissioner warns: Don't be complacent this summer first appeared on The Land.