‘No one immune’: Summer fire season hotspots revealed

State's fire danger 'the worst in a decade'

Suburban Canberra is at high risk during the upcoming fire season, 20 years after the devastating 2003 summer bushfires ripped through the region.

Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne also face an increased fire threat over December and January, as researchers warn unburnt areas could be next in line.

Researcher Ken Kato from leading disaster forecasting service Early Warning Network said vegetation growth in some suburban areas could mean a particularly tough season ahead.

“There are all sorts of different factors but generally speaking if an area hasn’t had a big bushfire for quite a while, the risk is higher,” he said.

The new research revealed several areas across the country are at a higher risk.

In Melbourne, areas of the Dandenong ranges have not been burnt since 1997, meaning the bushland in the region and potentially the outer suburbs in Dandenong could be at risk.

Sydney’s north and north-west have also not experienced widespread fires in more than 30 years and a greater risk is posed to northern suburbs and the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

North-west, south-west and island areas of Brisbane are also in the firing line, despite some significant fires on Moreton and Stradbroke islands in recent years.

Two years of La Nina weather events have led to significant vegetation growth and Kate said no one was immune from the upcoming fire threat.

“A lot of the 2003 Canberra fires went into suburban areas and that’s always a risk in Canberra,” he said.

“In Brisbane and Sydney suburbs, there’s patches of suburban bushland and green corridors. So just because somebody happens to be technically part of the metro area of a capital city doesn’t mean they’re immune from fire.”

More than 70 per cent of the ACT’s pastures, pine plantations and nature parks were severely damaged in the 2003 bushfires.

Four people died, hundreds were injured and 510 properties were destroyed in the blazes which penetrated into the suburbs.

Mr Kato said although the upcoming fire season was forecast to be the worst since 2019-2020, emergency services and the public had learned from the Black Summer blazes.

“Firefighting resources are a lot better – even compared to decades ago,” he said.

“But once a fire gets big enough, there’s only so much you can do.”

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