Perfect storm brews for bad Illawarra fire season

Rural Fire Services help put out a fire near Fountaindale Road, Jamberoo on Wednesday. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Rural Fire Services help put out a fire near Fountaindale Road, Jamberoo on Wednesday. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

Summer's warm weather is on its way, but with the sunshine comes the all-too-familiar threat of fires.

Three fires in four days at Kiama, Albion Park and Corrimal have Illawarra firefighters on notice leading into a long, dry season.

"The spring outlook is favouring drier conditions, which definitely contributes to fires," Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Agata Imielska said.

Ms Imielska said an El Nino weather pattern may develop for Australia's east coast, bringing conditions warmer and drier than usual. Combined with a wet winter supporting new vegetation growth, it could be a difficult season for firefighting.

"Winter rainfall has grown fuel for fires. If dry conditions continue, that will make it easier for fires to start," she said.

The bureau reports the Illawarra is likely to exceed past average temperatures in coming months.

Rural Fire Service Illawarra Superintendent Richard Cotterill said the combination of a wet winter and dry summer could spell trouble for fire crews.

"We are expecting above average temperatures and below average rainfall, and with the condition of the fuel on the ground we may be heading into a bad season," Supt Cotterill said.

He advised all residents to think about a bushfire survival plan, and to think ahead about how fires might affect their family.

"Even if you're not in a fire-prone area, think about how it will impact your travel, getting kids to school, if it will close roads or rail lines," Supt Cotterill said.

"People shouldn't wait and be told what to do, they need to be active in seeking information."

Fire and Rescue NSW Inspector Jay Bland said the basic fire messages were always important to heed.

"Clean your gutters of leaves and twigs, repair missing or damaged roof tiles, and get metal gutter guards. Fire embers can travel long distances," Insp Bland said.

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