El Nino 'likely' to cause more fires

Now is the time for Illawarra residents to create a bushfire plan.
Now is the time for Illawarra residents to create a bushfire plan.

The Illawarra Rural Fire Service has warned residents to prepare for the bushfire season.

Service superintendent Richard Cotterill said the fire season this year was likely to be more active than usual.

The Bureau of Meteorology released its latest El Nino outlook on Tuesday, suggesting a 70 per cent chance of the weather system forming.

El Ninos typically result in drought conditions affecting eastern Australia.

Supt Cotterill said recent rain in the Illawarra had caused the build-up of bushfire fuel.

"If El Nino takes effect, it will likely cause an increase in fire behaviour," he said. "We had quite a busy season last year in a variety of areas [so] with a warm winter already and warm conditions being forecast, it's quite possible ... we will see a reasonably active fire season."

In October 2013, the Hall Road fire burnt more than 15,000 hectares of bushland and destroyed two houses and 10 sheds in the Southern Highlands. At its peak, more than 350 firefighters were needed to stop the blaze spreading into towns such as Bargo and Wilton.

On Thursday, Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres announced new laws that would allow landholders to clear trees within 10 metres of their homes and bushes and shrubs from within 50 metres of their homes, to reduce bushfire danger.

The specific regions where the legislation is due to be implemented are yet to be decided. However, RFS district service co-ordinator for the Illawarra Inspector Michael Gray said now was the time for residents to create a bushfire plan.

"We've seen bushfires here in August," he said. "The key message is for the community to take advantage of the cooler months we're currently experiencing and prepare the property and themselves."


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