After it was revealed hazard reduction targets had been missed for four years in a row, the state’s fire chief has a grim assessment for next season.
After it was revealed hazard reduction targets had been missed for four years in a row, the state’s fire chief has a grim assessment for next season.

Fire chief’s sobering outlook for next season

QUEENSLAND Fire and Emergency Services is bracing for dry conditions to impede its hazard reduction burning operations this year.

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed the State Government failed to meets its burning targets as part of Operation Cool Burn for four years in a row, citing weather conditions.

QFES Commissioner Greg Leach said future burning would be dependent on climatic conditions.

QFES Commissioner Greg Leach. Picture: Liam Kidston
QFES Commissioner Greg Leach. Picture: Liam Kidston

"It's unlikely we're going to get above-average rainfall this year, and so it's highly likely that we're going to go into next fire season with even drier conditions then what we have now," he said.

"I would anticipate that next year's (mid 2020) burning program will be significantly impeded by the weather conditions that we'll face."

The time frame for Operation Cool Burn, which typically runs from April to August each year, may also change depending on the weather.

"The challenge we've got is our seasons are changing and so if you look at the four month period we set aside this year (2019), in fact operation Cool Burn got cut short because we got into fire operations here in Queensland," Mr Leach said.

"Our fire season kicked off in July this year (2019) which was unprecedented and by August we were into significant fires across Queensland and so that window that we identified with Operation Cool Burn … was in fact much shorter than that."

Rural Fire Brigade officers completing a hazard reduction burn south of Warwick in 2016. Picture: Queensland Fire and Rescue Service
Rural Fire Brigade officers completing a hazard reduction burn south of Warwick in 2016. Picture: Queensland Fire and Rescue Service

The Commissioner said QFES would look at other means of mitigation like constructing fire breaks and slashing to keep communities safe.

"Average rainfall isn't going to improve the underlying soil moisture levels in the fuel types," he said.

"I'd like to see more use of fire but in targeted ways so it's not necessarily about figures and target or a number, it's about strategic use of fire in strategic locations to protect communities and to protect critical community infrastructure."

Asked whether a lack of resources played into the Government not meeting its targets, the Commissioner said no.



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