October 1, 2021 marked the official commencement of the NSW Bushfire Danger Period in most local government areas in the state with only nine southern LGAs scheduled to enter the period on November 1 which will continue through to March 31 next year.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Rob Rogers warned recently that the current spell of wetter-than-average conditions in most areas had prompted strong grass and crop growth “particularly in areas west of the divide.”

“With the Bureau of Meteorology continuing to forecast wetter than average conditions through spring we are expecting to see strong grass and crop growth particularly in areas west of the divide,” Commissioner Rogers said.

Mr Rogers said the warmer months would see the large grass areas dry out and this would present possible problems for landholders and

“Grass fires typically move three times quicker than bush fires and can impact on lives and livelihoods with little to no warning.

“It is important that we all understand our level of risk and prepare accordingly,” added Mr Rogers with further advice that residents should take sensible steps to make plans to meet the dangers that fires present to life and property.

A key message of RFS professionals is that while the memories of the disastrous ‘fire summer’ of 2019-20 in this state remain strong in cities and rural areas alike, stark reality of those fires and the conditions that developed in those grim weeks over vast areas of south-eastern Australia should not be diminished by a return to apparently kinder climatic conditions.

It should be remembered that across Australia some 17 million hectares fell to the flames of bushfires in the period from September 2019 to the early months of 2020.

In NSW alone some 2439 houses were destroyed. Some estimates conclude that as between one and three billion Australian native birds, reptiles, mammals and frogs – as well as countless insect species was lost in the fires.

Areas of the nation previously thought to be relatively safe suffered from the rash of fires.

Despite some extraordinary claims on social media that ‘arsonists’ were responsible for most of the fires, authorities found little evidence that this was the case.

Not only has Australia faced the terrifying impact of hotter and fiercer bushfires in recent times, other parts of the world, especially in Europe and America, have been faced by successive summers of dangerous and long-lasting wildfires which have caused widespread destruction and loss of life.

Bushfires have been a part of the seasonal cycles in our country for centuries.

Such fires are not a new feature of our environment but there is clear evidence that the climatic circumstances operating in our environments are now fostering the development of hotter, faster moving and more aggressive fires.

All Australian states are facing similar challenges during their fire seasons and, if the pattern of apparent climatic change persists, the problems meeting and beating massive bushfires may well become the new normal.

NSW has been better placed than many other fire-threatened regions around the world because of the remarkable efforts of a large, well-trained, well-organised and well-resourced army of firefighters.

The NSW RFS is the world’s largest fire-fighting organisation with 77,000 volunteers and some 2000 RFS brigades.

While the large cities and big country towns established volunteer fire brigades (which later became permanently-staffed professional units) the locally-funded, volunteer bushfire brigades were the prime response of regional communities to the summer fire threats.

Country dwellers recognised that only through co-operation, organisation and appropriate equipment could the ever-present problem of summer bushfires sweeping through farms, forests and districts could be tackled.

The first official volunteer bushfire brigade was established at Berrigan in 1901.

In the decades since, the organisation which has become the RFS has grown, evolved and changed.

Although still an essentially-voluntary organisation, the RFS today is a professional, structured, well-organised and highly responsive body.

The modern RFS is equipped to fight fires with a wide range of purpose-built vehicles which can respond on land, water and through the air.

Modern RFS personnel have the advantage of receiving professional training, use of a wide range of fire-fighting tools and has a high degree of mobility.

The depth of experience and knowledge throughout the whole RFS structure is impressive – and comforting to landowners and property holders of all types in rural and regional areas.

In a world where climate change may well have created conditions for fires that are on a scale never before seen, the fact that the RFS operates in a culture of safe, responsible, expertise, utilising science-based intelligence and assessment, aided by high levels of resources and equipment.

Community members and RFS volunteers alike can feel a strong measure of comfort that the RFS is well equipped to undertake its mission in the months and years ahead.

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