NPWS prepares for above normal fire season

Source: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
Source: Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC

More than 60 NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) staff from across the south coast converged on Ulladulla last week to practice their bush firefighting skills in preparation for the upcoming fire season.

NPWS South Coast fire team leader Damien Dubrowin said staff travelled from as far as Merimbula and the Illawarra to refresh their firefighting skills and get the latest available information on the forecast conditions for summer.

“Training activities included remote area gear, using portable UHF radios, navigation in the bush and what to do if you are trapped in a vehicle with an oncoming fire,” Mr Dubrowin said.

“The training is run each year and covers a range of scenarios, so our response in a fire emergency becomes second nature.

“A lot of emphasis is placed on the unlikely scenario that staff are caught in a vehicle facing fire and while we hope the training will never be put in practice, we need to be ready.”

Photo: Barrie Curtis

Photo: Barrie Curtis

The training coincided with the release of the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2017, which predicts the southern fire season to start earlier and be more active than usual due to a warm, dry winter and forecasts of a hot summer.

Above normal bushfire potential affects the Bega Valley and East Gippsland among other areas.

“The current NSW outlook is for above normal fire potential for eastern forested areas of the state,” the report states.

“Although minimum temperatures have been mostly cooler than average, maximum temperatures have been warmer than average over the last three months.

“This has the effect of pre-conditioning fuels to be more susceptible to fire. In the case of forests, this dries the fine fuels and in the case of grasslands, frosts cause grass to cure early.”

Mr Dubrowin said NPWS staff across the south coast branch were trained at a world standard in bush firefighting and hazard reduction work.

“They are at the ready to attack and contain any fire, including being trained in helicopter winching and fighting fires in rugged terrain and very remote areas,” he said.