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Experts fear severe bushfire season

Most of the east coast of Australia faces above-normal bushfire risk this summer, according to the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre southern outlook.

Below-average winter rainfall has added to long-term drying trends, leading to a marked increase in fire weather severity.

“The combination of short and long-term rainfall deficits serves to increase the fire risk in the coming spring and summer seasons,” the report says.

Large areas experienced the hottest June-August daytime temperatures on record, which exacerbated the drying of vegetation.

The report says NSW has above-normal fire potential for eastern forested areas, while grassland areas have normal potential due to reduced fuel loads.

South-east Queensland could suffer due to high winter temperatures, while Victoria and Tasmania could see an early start to the fire season.

ACT bushfire potential is above normal due to dry vegetation, with large parts of SA similarly affected.

The centre’s outlook for northern Australia, released in July, showed increased risk in some parts of Queensland due to damage caused by Cyclone Debbie.

Strong winds stripped leaves from the canopy, increasing fine fuel loads and changing vegetation structure.

In northern WA, above-normal fire potential is reported in parts of the Ord Victoria Plain and Dampierland regions of the Kimberley.

The southern half of the Pilbara and central parts of the Gascoyne region also face above-normal fire potential.

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