Rural Fire Service Area director Andrew Houley said volunteer crews were fighting against the weather to prepare for this year’s fire season.
Rural Fire Service Area director Andrew Houley said volunteer crews were fighting against the weather to prepare for this year’s fire season.

Hazard burns delays could ignite fast-moving blazes

FROSTS have turned Mackay's grasslands into a tinderbox as rural fireys prepare for a season of fast-moving fires.

Rural Fire Service Area director Andrew Houley said volunteer crews were fighting against the weather to prepare for this year's fire season.

"This next month we need a break to get some fires going," Mr Houley said.

"It's really a funny season. We have too much rain then we're going to create too much smoke, but if you wait too long it's too dry.

"On the coast we're waiting for things to dry out.

"And further west (of Eton) heavy frosts have caused a lot of dead grass."

Rural Fire Service Mackay area director Andrew Houley observing a burnt area of the The Leap after a controlled burn in 2019. Picture: Zizi Averill
Rural Fire Service Mackay area director Andrew Houley observing a burnt area of the The Leap after a controlled burn in 2019. Picture: Zizi Averill

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The delays could mean critical burns are abandoned, he said.

Mr Houley said a burn along a 40km stretch of the Peak Downs Highway, near Eton, was unlikely to go ahead as fireys had "missed the window".

Another major burn near Grasstree Beach had been delayed due to the weather, he said.

Burns are planned at Kinchant Dam, St Helens Beach and at The Leap.

A hazard reduction burn of vegetation at The Leap on August 31, 2019. Picture: Steven Jesser
A hazard reduction burn of vegetation at The Leap on August 31, 2019. Picture: Steven Jesser

Fireys have managed to burn 30 hectares at both Armstrong Beach and Seaforth over the past fortnight.

Despite the delays, Mr Houley said he was confident the region would not face another horror fire season.

Mr Houley said it was a "transitional year", as the weather patterns moved from the three year dry spell to wetter seasons.

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A hazard reduction burn of vegetation at The Leap on August 31, 2019. Picture: Steven Jesser.
A hazard reduction burn of vegetation at The Leap on August 31, 2019. Picture: Steven Jesser.

Mr Houley said there would be an increase in grass fires due to the frosts.

"They're fast moving but easier to contain," he said.

Mr Houley said landowners were becoming more fire conscious, with many making sure their homes were prepared for summer.

"Right across the board since 2018 things have improved," he said.

But with more wet summers expected over the next few years, Mr Houley worried that apathy would drain away with the increased rainfall.

"People tend to forget," he said.



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