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Black Summer casts long shadow as bushfire threat rises

Police are investigating a fire east of Kempsey that burnt through nearly 3000ha of bushland.

Police are investigating a fire east of Kempsey that burnt through nearly 3000ha of bushland. Photo: AAP

Australia is preparing for what could be its worst bushfire season since the catastrophic Black Summer blazes.

Drier and warmer conditions have elevated the risk of spring bushfires in NSW, South Australia, large parts of Victoria and southeast Queensland, putting the nation’s leaders on edge.

Emergency management ministers gather in Brisbane on Friday for a briefing from the Bureau of Meteorology and the federal natural disaster management agency, before the government’s first National Bushfire Preparedness Summit in September.

During the two-day summit, 250 representatives from federal, state and territory governments will convene in Canberra alongside specialists from emergency services, industry and not-for-profit organisations.

Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said it was an opportunity to pool resources and prepare.

“We’re conscious that this is shaping up to be the first significant fire season since Black Summer, so we’re doing everything we can to be as prepared as possible at every level,” he said.

“The summit will ensure all key stakeholders know what resources and capabilities state and territory governments can draw upon and when, as well as additional operational and information sharing support.”

A simulated bushfire exercise is among the activities at the summit, which will focus on preparing vulnerable people including those living with disabilities and Indigenous communities.

Three years of La Nina downpours briefly quenched fire concerns, but the vegetation growth it fostered has begun to dry out.

Large parts of the country are now covered in dense, tall grassland – the perfect fuel for fast-moving fires.

Difficult weather conditions earlier in the year have put hazard reduction exercises behind schedule on much of the east coast, while unseasonably warm and dry conditions mean the bushfire season starts earlier in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The 2019-20 Black Summer bushfire season killed at least 34 people and destroyed more than 2000 homes, cloaking east coast skies in a blanket of ash for weeks and burning through an estimated 24.3 million hectares.

Nearby coastal areas that did not burn that year are now heavy with fuel and pose a serious risk.

The summit begins on September 25.

– AAP

Topics: Bushfires
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