Weather adds fuel to fire concerns

Andrew Mahoney 162630

By Andrew Mahoney, Chairman Bellarine Group Community Safety Committee

THERE is no doubt this has been one of the wettest seasons we have seen in the Bellarine for a long time.
Lake Connewarre near Barwon Heads has water and bird life for the first time in many years, farm dams across the Bellarine Peninsula are full and crops are looking healthy thanks to record rainfalls.
Despite the rain and based on climate data and input from Australia’s fire services, the 2016 Southern Australia Seasonal Outlook predicts western Victoria is heading towards a fire season with an above normal fire risk.
Nationally, we have had the second wettest winter on record, and here in Victoria, September was the wettest in nearly 100 years. At the same time, each month of 2016 has been above the average mean temperature. We know that water, good soil moisture plus sunshine equals strong vegetation growth, which becomes fuel for fires.
The Brigades across the Bellarine are busy preparing for the summer fire season. There are a range of activities we undertake including a refresh of our firefighting skills, checks across all appliances and a group exercise was held in mid-October to run through several scenarios and practice our response.
Combining the collective years of experience of our members, we are well prepared to protect our communities – residents and holidaymakers alike – during the fire season.
Across the Bellarine we support our fellow brigades and they support us – we are committed to keeping our communities safe all year round. When the pagers go we respond, regardless of time of day, the weather or situation.
Volunteers and career firefighters work closely together across the year and share a mutual respect for our collective skills, expertise and experience.
Fire is a shared responsibility. While we are committed to keeping you safe this summer and across all seasons, there are a number of things you can do in the months leading into summer to help keep your family, home, property and livestock safe.
Here are our top five tips:
* Clear up around the home – prune trees, clear gutters, clean around sheds.
* Before burning off, check the permit requirements with your local council and following guidelines.
* Plan how you would escape a fire in your home and share it with all members of your family.
* Know what your fire plan is in the event of a bushfire or grass fire, which may mean leaving the area early, well before there are any signs of fire.
* Download the new VicEmergency app to your smart phone. This app provides the latest fire information and warnings. Set the app to notify you of incidents occurring in chosen areas and use it to stay up to date with local Fire Danger Ratings and Total Fire Bans.
And always remember to call triple-zero in the event of a fire or emergency situation.
The fire outlook will be reviewed towards the end of spring to take into account the impacts of actual temperatures and rainfall in the lead up to summer. For more information go to