Official Start For Fire Season In Sydney, Most Of NSW, Brought Forward

FairfaxPeter Hannam

Authorities will bring forward the official start to the bushfire danger period to almost the whole of NSW from the start of next month as risks of major blazes intensify.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says a huge swath of the state covering forested areas will their official fire season start from September 1. The regions join 14 local government areas already covered, and will include Sydney and the Illawarra.
Even alpine areas will be included in the move with only fairly barren regions in western NSW excluded, Ben Shepherd, senior RFS spokesman, told Fairfax Media.
An out-of-control fire burns in a national park at Bemboka earlier this week. Photo: Elaine Bateman
The move came as fire crews had another testing day,  with 78 grass and bush fires reported including 36 of them yet to be controlled as of late on Friday. Some 750 firefighters were in the field, Inspector Shepherd said.
A helicopter crashed while carrying out water-bombing activities against a fire near Ulladulla on the state's south coast on Friday, killing the pilot.
Saturday looms as another day of elevated fire risk with temperatures climbing into the mid-20s in parts of the state, with 23 degrees forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology for Sydney.
Inspector Shepherd said the day was not expected to create as severe fire danger as Wednesday. Still, winds along the coast could gust above 40 km/h and those in the mountains more than 70 km/h, he said.
Bushfire season has come early this year - with the first total fire bans announced almost two weeks earlier than in any previous year. Photo: Wolter Peeters
The Berejiklian government earlier this month declared the entire state to be in drought, amid record high day-time temperatures for the first seven months of the year, and the least rain since 1965.
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers earlier this week said authorities were "very concerned about the season".
Inspector Shepherd said moisture indices were showing conditions "are far drier" than the 2001-2002 fire season that was marked by big blazes across the state, including near Sydney.
The official start of the fire season means tighter restrictions for burning off in the open.
Residents, though, should not wait for a date in the calendar to begin their preparations for planning to deal with bushfires, Inspector Shepherd said.
"This weekend is the time to start", he said, adding people should seek to reduce material that could burn from gutters and around their homes, and plan on maintaining those conditions through what could be a long season.
Snow falls have been the best for about 14 years in alpine areas, prompting some resorts to plan to extend their skiing seasons.
Still, grassfires had been ignited in areas up to 1000 metres elevation, so those regions had been added to the early start for the fire season, Inspector Shepherd said.


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