THE Rural Fire Service says the recent outbreak of grass fires around the region — although the work of arsonists — should act as a wake up call to residents to prepare for what could well prove to be a horror summer for bushfires.
The RFS has been warning for some time that a number of factors have been coming together to pose the most serious threat in years during the bushfire danger period of 2012-13.
Unusally cool, wet summers over the past two years have meant there have been no serious fires but have also limited the capacity for hazard reduction burns in the cooler months.
The wet seasons have also meant a surge in new undergrowth and grasses to provide fuel for any outbreak if the coming summer proves to be a hot one.
In fact the RFS believes the danger could approach that of the disastrous firestorm of 1997-98 which literally took weeks to finally control.
Superintendent Ian Jackson said this week’s grass fires which were able to spread despite the recent severity of the winter gave an indication of the looming danger.
Worse still was the realisation that three fires in just one night — at Marrangaroo and Lake Lyell — were deliberately lit.
Police are seeking the firebug before the situation worsens.
At Marrangaroo the firebug was particularly brazen, parking his car to light fires beside the highway then returning to light a second grass fire after the first outbreaks were extinguished.
On Wednesday afternoon there was another fire near the Oberon Dam and yet another briefly affecting highway traffic at Raglan.
“This has to be a warning signal,” Superintendent Jackson said.
He said residents, particularly those close to bushland or open grassland, should be taking precautions now and creating breaks around their homes and paddocks.
He said graziers in particular should ensure they have a ‘refuge’ paddock as free as possible of flammable material where stock can be moved in the event of a fire.
The local Rural Fire Service is available to offer advice where required.