GETTING READY: Queensland Rural Fire Service regional manager Superintendent Alan Gillespie (centre), with Mt Forbes Rural Fire Brigade members Jason Gillett (left) and Peter Ackerley.
GETTING READY: Queensland Rural Fire Service regional manager Superintendent Alan Gillespie (centre), with Mt Forbes Rural Fire Brigade members Jason Gillett (left) and Peter Ackerley. Andrew Korner

Crews bracing for worst fire season in a generation

THE Ipswich region is the driest it has been in years, and firefighters are preparing for the worst.

Queensland Rural Fire Service regional manager Superintendent Alan Gillespie says this year's fire season was threatening to be the worst in a generation, following on from what was an extremely busy season towards the latter half of 2018.

Of particular concern is the KBDI, or drought index that firefighters rely on for a guide as to the level of moisture in the ground.

"This time last year, the index was at 130 at Amberley, and we went on to have one of the worst fire seasons in a long time," Mr Gillespie said.

"The index is currently at 152, which is a good indication of just how dry things are out there in the western parts of south-east Queensland at the moment."

The fire season started in mid-July last year - several weeks earlier than normal - which has prompted the sense of urgency from firefighters this year.

Mr Gillespie is urging landholders to start planning for the fire season now.

Emphasis has been placed on reducing the number of fires caused by slashers and other farming equipment, following a horror year last year in which crews battled several big grass fires that were sparked by tools and tractors being used in the paddock.

"We have already seen three fires started this year from slashers, including at Kalbar and Boonah recently," Mr Gillespie said.

"We want people to start looking around the properties and preparing, to do their hazard mitigation burns where possible.

"We are heading into the driest winter in a long time. It is drier this year than at the same time last year and last year we had the worst fire season in a generation.

"There is a huge amount of fuel there and we've had some massive frosts."

Also of concern is the fact that many rural dams are drying up.

Small dams can prove a godsend to crews who are called to fight fires in rural areas, where water supply becomes an issue.

"If you are doing anything that could create a spark, then you should have something with you to attack the fire while it is still small," Mr Gillespie said.

The Ipswich region's rural fire brigades have spent the first half of the year preparing for what could be a busy season ahead.

Mr Gillespie said brigades were well prepared and equipped to respond.

Crews are about to start conducting hazard reduction burns on several properties in the Ipswich and West Moreton region over the coming weeks, weather permitting.

Rural firefighters are calling on residents to work on a bushfire survival plan.

Further information on bushfire survival plans is available on the rural fire website.



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