Ominous portents for a catastrophic bushfire season

THIS week’s fire emergency a few hours down the road is an ominousprelude to a bushfire season thatthreatens to erupt.

Two homes, six sheds and two vehicles have been destroyed in the 4000-hectare blaze near Lancefield, which was sparked by a government-controlled burn-off.

Any summer in our hot, dry continentpresents fertile bushfire conditions.

But the portents of doom areparticularly strong this season.

Just a week into October, and the region is sweltering through an unseasonal mini-heatwave, with the mercury nudging 35 degrees in Wagga on Tuesday.

September was the third driest on record nationwide and forecasters have warned the dry hand of El Nino is likely to extend its reach over much of the continent in coming months.

Couple that with a high fuel-load onthe ground, caused by a wet winter and an asphyxiating dry spell, and a dramaticreduction inburn-offs, and you have a recipe forcatastrophe.

We don’t have to glance far back intohistory to see how real the threat is.

The fire crisis that engulfed the BlueMountains two years ago offers a soberingreminder of how fleeting fate can be inour sunburnt country.

And it was just over 18 months ago that homes were destroyed by a furious bushfire south-east of Wagga.

Despite the freshness of thosetragedies, recent surveys suggest only afraction of residents have properemergency preparedness plans forbushfires.

The message is simple: if you live nearbushland, you need to be prepared forthe prospect of a bushfire coming nearyour home.

Ensure your home is free from debrisand old leaves, and keep woodpiles andother flammable materials well awayfrom the house.

Keep your lawn short and thebackyard tidy and consider purchasinga portable pump to use from yourswimming pool or water tank.

We are on the cusp of a long, hotsummer where a perfect storm offactors means the bushfire threat is at apeak.Complacency is as big a threat as thefire itself.It could cost you your houseand belongings, or even worse, your life.

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