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A map provided by the Australian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) has painted a dire image of spring weather, with significant parts of the country exposed to elevated fire risk.

The AFAC urged Australians to prepare for bushfire season now, before temperatures start to pick up in earnest.

In its seasonal bushfire outlook for spring, the body warned the climate had shifted “significantly” since this time last year, with the Bureau of Meteorology predicting above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall across much of Australia.

Heavy rain and three subdued fire seasons under the La Nina weather pattern have contributed to increased fuel growth, with more new vegetation and grass that has potential to catch alight, the AFAC added.

A map showed increased fire risk across swathes of the country, with NSW, Queensland and the NT most at risk.

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“Almost the entire country can expect drier and warmer conditions than normal this spring, so it is important for Australians be alert to local risks of bushfire over the coming months, regardless of their location,” AFAC CEO Rob Webb said.

“Fire is a regular part of the Australian landscape in spring. Wherever you live, work or travel, now is the time to plan and prepare.

“Understand your risk, know where you will get your information, and talk to your family about what you will do.”

Last week, Mr Webb said this spring and summer fire season was unlikely to be a repeat of the Black Summer but he urged Aussies to get prepared.

“We’ll be watching closely to see how quickly those fuels dry out, how quickly the temperatures increase into the summer months,” he said.

“It only takes a short time of the 40-plus temperatures and very windy conditions to create that tinderbox that you need to drive bushfires.”

Below is a summary of what can be expected in each state this spring.

New South Wales

Large areas of central and northern NSW are expected to see an increased risk of fire in spring 2023.

Hazard reduction burns will be undertaken where permitted.

The AFAC warns regions hit by the Black Summer fires in 2019-20 have seen fuel regrowth, while there are high grass loads in the state’s north.

High forest fuel loads are also evident in parts of the coast and ranges not affected by the 2019-20 fires. These are particularly noticeable around the Sydney Basin, parts of the coast and north of the Hunter, AFAC said.

Victoria

Victoria can expect a warmer spring and earlier start to the high-risk fire season this year, following three years of lower fire risk seasons as a result of La Nina.

There is a high likelihood the 2023-2024 bushfire season will begin earlier than usual across much of central, western and northern Victoria.

“Elsewhere around the state, the fire risk potential is assessed to be normal noting that drier forests, woodlands and bushfire intensity and make fire control more challenging,” the report stated.

Queensland

“Locally intense” bushfire activity is expected in Queensland due to a combination of drying fuels, forecast below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures.

Bushfires may be destructive across parts of Queensland as vegetation becomes flammable in the spring months, the AFAC said.

“Whilst Queensland has experienced significant rainfall across many parts of the state, which has resulted in significant growth in vegetation, the fuel loads being observed are similar to traditional post La Nina growth patterns,” it added.

South Australia

Despite SA being soaked earlier this year, the rains have quickly dried up to below-average, meaning soil is dry in many areas of the state.

Far greater fuel loads are present, meaning greater hazard reduction are required throughout spring before the hottest weather arrives.

“The fire danger outlook has increased from below average to above average for spring across much of the southern half of the South Australia,” the report stated.

“Fire danger outlook is showing increased risk of fire for grassland in the SA-Victoria border region and also for Mallee Heath areas across southern SA approaching the Victorian border.

“These factors raise expectations of an early start to the 2023 fire danger season.”

Western Australia

Winter rainfall has been below-average for southern WA and above average for northern WA.

An above-average wet season in the Kimberley delayed curing in the savanna grassland and subsequently the late dry season. Bushfire risk will increase as the vegetation continues to cure and the weather becomes drier and warmer.

For southern WA in late spring, drier and warmer conditions may contribute to higher surface fuel availability, making bushfires more difficult to suppress.

Tasmania

Normal bushfire risk is predicted for spring in Tasmania.

Drier and warmer conditions, and an abundance of fuel will see bushfire risk increase towards summer.

Northern Territory

Drying conditions are predicted to impact the entire NT through spring.

Average grass fuel loads and adequate fire scar coverage across the Top End, Katherine and Arnhem districts mean there is normal fire potential for these regions.

Above-average grass fuel loads, continuity of these fuels and high densities of invasive buffelgrass have increased the risk for wildfires to travel across vast distances during spring.

Australian Capital Territory

A normal bushfire risk during spring is expected for the ACT.

The long-range outlook for spring predicts drier and warmer conditions, raising the possibility of increased bush and grass fire risks for summer.

Fire agencies and land managers will conduct prescribed burning during spring to mitigate potential hazards.

Read related topics:Weather

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