Wagga residents warned not to get complacent on bushfire threat

A bushfire near Ashmont between Bunnings and Veale Street in 2016. Firefighters are warning against letting the rain cause complacency on seasonal preparations.
A bushfire near Ashmont between Bunnings and Veale Street in 2016. Firefighters are warning against letting the rain cause complacency on seasonal preparations.

Wagga residents are being warned against letting recent rain lull them into a false sense of security about bushfires.

Bradley Stewart, the operational officer of the Riverina Rural Fire Service, said the rain would “green up” the region as grass grew, which would see the bushfire risk reduced in the short term.

But, Mr Stewart said while the immediate threat would be reduced, this grass would dry out and add to the fuel load later in the summer unless there was follow-up rain.

“We are still at heightened risk for the time being,” he said.

“The bushfire season really doesn't peak until late January or early February and into March.”

Wagga recorded a total of 70.6mm between Saturday and Monday, but after a dry winter, the amount of rainfall so far in 2017 is both below average and lower than the 2016 figure.

Mr Stewart warned householders against complacency, even with the increasing likelihood of a La Nina weather event bringing higher-than-average summer rain.

“Regardless of the outlook, we aim to always be ready. We don’t lower our standards and we are always preparing and planning for the worst season – while hoping for the best.”

Mr Stewart urged Wagga residents not to let the recent wet weather change their bushfire preparations.

He encouraged farmers to remember harvest guidelines and put in firebreaks, while people on smaller blocks should trim overhanging branches, mow grass and clear gutters and garden beds.