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Wet winter fuels grassland fire risk

Grassland areas in Victoria and NSW face higher bushfire risk, with average to above-average temperatures forecast for summer, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre says.

Predictions of average to below-average rainfall and the fading likelihood of La Nina are compounding the fire risks, the centre says in its updated outlook to February.

It says the winter’s above-average rainfall has led to “ideal growing conditions” in grassland areas. “As temperatures warm, this grass will dry, increasing the risk.”

Large areas of eastern Australia will likely experience above-average temperatures during summer.

“A majority of central NSW has above-normal fire potential, with prolific grass growth experienced during the spring, and a forecast tending towards above-average temperatures for summer,” the centre says.

“These temperatures are likely to result in accelerated grass curing and increased fire danger.”

In Victoria an above-normal bushfire season is expected, with the risk more pronounced in west and south Gippsland due to a lack of rainfall.

Emergency Management Victoria says the state “can expect significant grassfire risk this summer as extensive spring growth dries out, creating high fuel loads across the state. The threat of forest fires in the east of the state will peak around Christmas.”

Areas of southeast Queensland can expect above-normal bushfire risk, while Tasmania’s fire season is delayed due to high soil moisture.

The outlook for SA indicates normal fire activity, while conditions in the ACT point to hotter and drier weather for the next few months.

The Insurance Council of Australia predicts about 1.75 million blocks of land nationwide may be affected by bushfires.

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