PREDICTIONS of a horrific bushfire season around Geelong have sparked fears of a deadly summer, the region’s fire chief has warned.
Country Fire Authority Region 7 chief Bob Barry said early indicators suggested a firestorm on a bigger scale than 1983’s Ash Wednesday disaster threatened the region.
“We saw 70 people lose their lives on Ash Wednesday and if (CFA) and the community don’t prepare for a disastrous summer, we’re staring down the barrel of a similar catastrophe,” Mr Barry said.
CFA testing had revealed unusually warm temperatures and below average rainfall had left the region more susceptible to fires than it was in the lead-up to the 1983 disaster, he said.
“Soil and fuel moisture content is extremely low, we’ve been experiencing some strong north-westerly winds and, when you put all those factors together, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Mr Barry said.
“We’re experiencing this in September but in a normal year we won’t bring on fire restrictions until a week before Christmas so in terms of fire danger we’re at least eight weeks ahead of the normal danger period.”
He said the Otway National Park was a particular danger area.
“The coastal heathlands around Torquay and Anglesea are ready to burn today with the right weather conditions, there’s no doubt about the risks we’re facing.”
Residents close to areas burnt out in the Australia Day fires which devoured 7000 hectares in the Brisbane Ranges near Anakie, were not exempt from the CFA’s warning either.
“The life risk in those areas like Maude and Steiglitz is actually higher than it was (before the fires earlier this year).”
Mr Barry also predicted a severe water shortage in the region would hamper firefighters’ efforts this summer.
“I was talking to the Anakie (CFA) captain and he has 27 dams on his property but not one of them has any water in it,” he said.