Victorians urged to prepare for risk of grassfires this summer

26 November 2021
AFAC map of fire potential for Summer 2021, showing below normal fire potential in eastern Victoria.

Fast-running grassfires will be a risk across Victoria this summer, with winter and spring rain leading to significant pasture growth in paddocks and roadsides.

According to the Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for summer 2021-22, released yesterday, Victoria is expecting a normal fire season, with below-normal bushfire potential in the east of the state. However, the potential for grassfires is still very real across Victoria.

The delayed harvest due to recent rain will heighten the fire risk associated with cropping, compared to previous years.

Normal fire potential is expected in grasslands and dry forests, and short-duration fires are still likely to occur on hot, dry and windy days.

During winter and spring, most of Victoria received average to above-average rainfall. This has resulted in a later start to the fire season compared to recent years.

The climate outlook for summer indicates average rainfall for most of Victoria, with warmer than average conditions in the west of the state and cooler than average in the east.

Predicted rainfall and existing underlying moisture means there is a below-normal risk of forest fires in the eastern, north-east and central ranges and the Otways. This lower risk level includes areas that are still recovering from the 2018-19 and 2019-20 fire seasons.

The quarterly national Seasonal Bushfire Outlook is developed by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC), the Bureau of Meteorology and state fire services agencies. AFAC is the national council for fire and emergency services.

To read the full Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for summer 2021-22 visit the AFAC website (External link).

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp:

“When grasses and crops are close to fully dry, there is a very high potential for fire behaviour to rapidly escalate under elevated fire weather conditions.

“It’s critical that if you live, work or are on the move to new areas, you must know and understand the fire risk near you.

“Know where you can go to get good information to make good decisions. Stay informed over summer – listen to information and warnings and be ready to enact your plan.”

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic:

“We’ve had a late onset of the fire season, but it’s really important that Victorians don’t get complacent as we live in one of the world’s most bushfire-prone areas.

“Even a normal fire season presents a potential high risk and we urge residents to prepare their properties and continue to keep on top of fast-growing grass.

“Anyone who lives in or travels through regional areas need to monitor conditions and have a plan for dry, hot and windy days.

“Grassfires travel faster than you can run, and they jump highways, so you need to activate your fire plan on those high-risk days before a fire starts.”

Fire Rescue Victoria Commissioner Ken Block:

“It’s not just people who live in rural areas that need to be aware of their risk of grassfires this summer – if you live on the urban fringe you could also be at risk.

“If you live on the urban fringe next to grasslands and a fire breaks out, walk two streets back into the built-up areas and wait for emergency services to arrive.

“If you live more than two streets away from grassfires, stay indoors with the windowsills and doors blocked by towels and turn off your air-conditioning.”

Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Chris Hardman:

“While below-normal fire risk in some parts of the state is welcome, we are still living in one of the most bushfire prone regions in the world and need the community to work with us to prevent fires from starting.

“Unattended campfires are the cause of more than 10% of all bushfires in Victoria yet are completely avoidable - It only takes one stray ember to cause a destructive bushfire, and grassfires can spread quickly to vast areas endangering communities in minutes.

“With many Victorians once again expected to visit our much-loved network of parks and forests over the warmer months it is crucial that fire safety remains a priority to help prevent the devastating impacts of fires on communities and the environment.”