Rural fireys warn residents to prepare for fire season
RURAL firefighters have warned that a slow uptake of back-burning permits - plus a warm, dry winter - could spell disaster for the upcoming bushfire season.
Private property owners are being urged to conduct mitigation burns during the cooler months to prevent a repeat of last year's fire outbreaks. There are fears low winter rainfall and warmer temperatures may trigger an early start to the bushfire season, with dry growth primed to go up in flames.
Residents were evacuated from Deepwater, south of Gladstone, in November after wildfires tore through bushland and properties.
Wartburg Rural Fire Brigade first officer Judy Ferrari said despite the horrific experience so fresh in residents' memories, very few property owners had applied for permits to conduct hazard-reduction burns.
"So far in this period we only have a handful of people who have applied for a permit; there has not been a great rush," Ms Ferrari said.
"People could be worried and frightened (about fire) after what happened last year.
"But we need to educate people not to be frightened and that we need to keep safe."
Ms Ferrari said despite the Deepwater fires wiping out large tracts of bush, about half the region remained untouched and was therefore a fuel risk.
The Wartburg Rural Fire Brigade assists with back-burning in the Deepwater National Park each year but Ms Ferrari said it was the responsibility of landowners to clear their own properties.
Mount Maurice Rural Fire Brigade first officer Peter Jackson said volunteers would be back-burning 100ha near Kirkwood in coming weeks and he urged private landowners to do the same.
"Growth is quite thick and the weather has been very dry and the only thing saving us (from bushfires) right now is the temperature," Mr Jackson said.
"If we don't get any more rain it could be an early start to the fire season and it could be a big season."
The bushfire season generally starts in August but Mr Jackson said it could hit as early as late June or early July this year.
Calliope Rural Fire Brigade first officer Jason Polzin warned some developers were too complacent about slashing and burning until it was too late.
"In some cases we are banging our heads against a brick wall," Mr Polzin said.
"Most farmers in our area do their own hazard-reduction burns but some developers we have approached don't want to do anything."
Deepwater resident Ken Chynoweth-Tidy, who was among last year's evacuees, said he was not concerned about a repeat of the natural disaster that charred the landscape.
Mr Chynoweth-Tidy said his greatest worry was people obtaining fire permits and either not following the rules or not having enough experience with fire.
"I've always been worried about that because most bushfires are permit burns gone wrong," Mr Chynoweth-Tidy said.
Residents are urged to contact their local fire service to obtain permits and get information.
To get in touch with your local rural fire brigade service contact the Gladstone Queensland Fire and Emergency Services office on 48992200.