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  • Keegan Thomson

Perfect conditions for grass fires

ALREADY in 2017 we’ve seen a spate of grass fires rage across western Sydney due to the ongoing hot and dry conditions, but RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons is warning the conditions are perfect for more grass fires to come.

The above average rainfall across the state last year has mixed with some of the hottest weather on record to produce near perfect conditions for grass fires, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said.

“After a wet and warm 2016, increased vegetation growth has dried out and that is now causing real concern,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

“Grass and crop fires can be especially dangerous because they start easily and spread rapidly. They can destroy not only homes and stock, but also lives and livelihoods,” he added.

Around 80 per cent of NSW is covered in grass lands with much of the western Sydney area being made up of grasslands and bush, making this warning extra prevalent to the people of the west.

Across the last few weeks a number of large grass fires across the state and around western Sydney have burnt out over 5500 hectares of grassland, burning around $650,000 worth of crops and killing 300 heads of sheep.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons has warned of the dangerous and deceptive speeds of grass fires saying they can move much faster than bushfires.

“Grass fires can move more than three times as fast as a bushfire,” he said. “As we’ve seen, they can take hold rapidly and lead to much devastation.”

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there are couple of steps people can take now to prepare for the increased risk in grass fire activity.

“Farmers can help protect their properties by establishing firebreaks around paddocks, homes and other valuable assets like sheds and equipment.

“We’re also asking motorists and those travelling to avoid driving through or stopping in long grass, even if it’s just for a few minutes, as the heat from a car’s exhaust can be enough to start a fire,” he said.

People living near over grown grassy areas shouldn’t get complacent simply because they don’t live near the bush, Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

Residents living in those grass fire prone areas should also have bushfire survival plan ready to enact.

“People living in areas near crops and grass growth should have a plan for what they will do if there is a fire. Make a bushfire survival plan and discuss it with your family,” he said.

If you come across an unattended fire of any type it is important to report it to Triple Zero (000) as soon as possible.

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