Another devastating bushfire season ahead

29 Aug, 2011 12:09 PM

Shoulder-high grass that has grown across the centre of Australia this winter has the potential to contribute to a disastrous bushfire season, according to the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

The large areas of drying grass have sparked the CRC's Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook to warn of an above-normal bushfire activity for the 2011-12 season.

The grass growth, prompted by heavy rain across much of the continent, is between waist and shoulder high across much of the centre of Australia.

The report found that in the Midwest, desert and Nullabor regions, large areas of high fuel loads grew as a consequence of the rainfall, which in some areas was among the highest on record.

In the South-West, including the Wheatbelt, spring and winter rainfall was approaching the average amount resulting in widespread areas of reasonable crops.

With a legacy of deep soil moisture deficiency the South-West relies on more rainfall to prevent the normal fire potential in the region to rise above average.

Major grassfires, once common in many areas of the country, have been relatively low in recent years because of the long drought that ended over much of Australia in 2010.

The Bushfire CRC publishes the report every year ahead of the bushfire seasons for the northern and southern regions.

The predictions for the upcoming bushfire season follows one of the worst years on record, when 71 homes were destroyed in the Roleystone fires in early February.

The fallout of a scathing report into the February fires is continuing today following revelations that WA's emergency coordinator and police chief Karl O'Callaghan was at a cricket match while the hills burned.

The report, by former Australian Federal Police chief Mick Keelty has already led to the sacking of former FESA boss Jo Harrison-Ward earlier this month.

Premier Colin Barnett has maintained his support for Mr O'Callaghan as well as backing Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson, who has been under fire for his lack of action on the night of the devastating bushfire despite ongoing calls for him to step down.

The state government has begun implementing the recommendations of the Keelty report.



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