Victoria’s preparing for bushfire during a pandemic, Premier says

September 17, 2020 BY

6,000 more burn-offs were registered this winter compared to last winter, according to the CFA.

VICTORIA is still grappling with the impact of the coronavirus but Premier Daniel Andrews said an eye was being kept on the implications for the coming bushfire season.
The state government’s roadmap to coronavirus recovery for regional Victoria sets out the gradual easing of movement restrictions and public gathering limits.
However, it does not mention any exceptions in the case of days with an Extreme or Code Red Fire Danger Rating or an actual bushfire – for example, if a town had to be evacuated, or if people left early and headed to their homes in Melbourne (which has tighter coronavirus restrictions).
Speaking last week, Mr Andrews said a bushfire during the pandemic would present a “series of unique challenges”.
“We thought we’d seen probably our worst fire season on some measures ever last summer, but in the current environment, it is quite challenging.
“In those situations, masks would be critically important but at the same time, air quality might be poorer, so it gets really challenging.
“There is a power of work – just like every year – to be as ready as possible.
“If we continue to see these numbers are low, keep driving them down, have some cautiousness and some conservatism to these settings (on the roadmap), we can hopefully – even though fire is coming earlier every year – find that COVID Normal (the fifth and last step) just a little before the fire season is at its historic worst.”
He said some details were still being worked out.
“We’re having a good close look at what might the restrictions mean for people travelling from Melbourne to go and do their fire prep, to clean up their property.
“All of those sorts of things are being looked at all the way through – we’ve got a big aerial fleet, we’re doing as much controlled burning as we can.”
Mr Andrews said the forecast of significant spring rain was both good and bad for the prospect of bushfires over the hotter months.
“Whilst there’s a massive effort going into the pandemic, there’s also a lot of hard work going in to ensure we’re ready for another fire season.”
The CFA has praised Victorians for registering their burn-offs, as thousands more took the opportunity to clean up their properties this winter compared to last year.
According to the latest figures, 6,000 more burn-offs were registered with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) between the start of May and the end of August.
CFA acting chief officer Garry Cook said it was great news to see so many Victorians doing the right thing.
“Registering your burn-off is important as it means CFA volunteer firefighters are not called out unnecessarily when someone reports smoke, as any reports are cross-referenced with ESTA’s register.
“We’re not sure if there are more burn-offs, or simply more people doing the right thing but with almost 57,000 registered through winter compared to almost 51,000 last year, we think it’s a combination of both.”
He said rain in many parts of Victoria over winter meant a slight delay to the start of the fire season, compared to recent years when the Fire Danger Period (FDP) started in early September in East Gippsland.
However, the FDP is fast approaching across Victoria, after which the window to conduct burn-offs without a permit closes.
To register your burn-off, phone 1800 668 511 or email [email protected].

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