Byron Bay Rural Fire Service deputy captain Steve Cullen fighting bushfires near homes in Wilsons Creek in August last year.
Byron Bay Rural Fire Service deputy captain Steve Cullen fighting bushfires near homes in Wilsons Creek in August last year. Doug Eaton

Burn it off now, for safety's sake

LOCAL firefighters are warning rural residents to do their back-burning now before the fire season is upon us.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service had the biggest hazard reduction season on record in the past financial year, burning 92,000ha including 974ha in the Northern Rivers.

The Northern Rivers recorded 3628ha of hazard burning in the same period Superintendent Boyd Townsend, from the Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service, said

Hazard reduction includes back-burning in high risk areas and helps protect properties and homes from fires.

Despite the success of recent hazard reduction programs, Supt Townsend said the quantity of land burnt isn’t always the most important factor.

“Burning at Evans Head was on the books for three years but the window of weatheropportunity never arose,” he said.

“It was either too wet or too dry and we weren’t able to get it done.”

Mr Townsend said the fact the RFS was able to back-burn in Evans Head last year, which was in close proximity to urban areas, had a bigger impact than burning 100ha in the middle of nowhere.

More recently, damp weather has prevented the RFS from completing more hazard reduction.

“The wet weather has hampered our efforts, but we have done more then we have in the last five years,” RFS Far North Coast community safety officer Laurence McCoy said.

“There is a misconception that if you get high rainfall you don’t get fires, but that is not the case at all. We had major fires last year when it rained the first half of the year.”

The Northern Rivers was hit hard by major bushfires last year with a fire at Paddys Flat, west of Old Bonalbo, burning 6044ha.

With only a little over a month left before the fire season starts, Mr McCoy is urging residents in rural areas to ensure their hazard reduction is done before conditions are too dangerous.

“Plan them now and don’t wait until the end of August when it’s too late,” he said.

The RFS aims to complete hazard reduction operations, before the fire season starts in September. The fire season usually runs until March, subject to weather conditions.



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