NSW battles winter bushfires

NSW firefighters have been tackling about 80 bushfires across the drought-afflicted state, and experts warn there could be worse to come. Some areas have experienced the earliest total fire ban in a decade, and with the last major fires in April authorities have had just three months between seasons. Damage to properties has so far been minimal, but the insurance industry is on alert. “The drought brings heightened fire risk,” Insurance Council of Australia GM Policy Risk and Disaster Karl Sullivan told insuranceNEWS.com.au. “The vegetation has cured earlier, which brings about the opportunity for an early fire season. “This was not unforeseen or unpredicted.” Parts of Victoria are also under pressure after much-reduced rainfall, with the Country Fire Authority warning the season could start in September and that conditions in Gippsland are the worst since Black Saturday. “If we don’t get good rain, the conditions will be a problem over summer,” Chief Officer Steve Warrington said. Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre CEO Richard Thornton believes the drought, which has persisted for seven years in some areas, will continue to drive increased bushfire risk. The centre has yet to release its outlook for the south of the country, but Mr Thornton told insuranceNEWS.com.au it isn’t looking good. “It is unusual that we are getting fires in August and that will take people by surprise,” he said. “As we head into warmer conditions, we need to be ever more vigilant. The indications coming out of the agencies are that the fire season could be bad.”

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