In the lead-up to fire season as winter gradually turns to spring, an alarming, "unsafe" act has prompted a stark warning to Aussies as the hot weather approaches.
With the nation having experienced mostly a dry, warmer-than-average winter, experts have said that those conditions are expected to significantly increase the risk of bushfires in the coming months and it's more important than ever to stay aware.
One driver's "unsafe" act on the NSW Central Coast "could've had serious consequences" in the event of a fire, Rural Fire Brigade (RFS) officers said, taking to Facebook to remind people never to block access to fire trials with their cars.
"It’s just not on peeps!" Narara RFS said. "Today the brigade was out training at Kariong and when we left to go home we were treated to this.
"Despite being well signposted, we were trapped in a fire trial by someone who thought this was a good place to park. Whilst today we were only training, these fire trails are an important part of our fire fighting and are certainly critical at times if we have to leave the bush for our safety.
"Please remember that fire trails are there for the protection and safety of our community and our crews. Blocking them is not safe and could have serious consequences."
Fire season rapidly approaches
Australia's bushfire season typically runs from October to March, though it may vary from state to state. With just weeks to go, preparations are desperately being made in the lead-up to what's expected to be a dangerous summer period.
In NSW alone, more than 70 bush or grass fires were burning across the state as of last night. Of those, a total of 20 were not contained.
"As of Sunday evening there are around 445 firefighters on the ground with about 150 trucks," Greg Allan, spokesperson for NSW RFS said, according to the ABC.
Six aircraft were being used, including the RFS Chinook water-bombing helicopter - used for the first time to help contain a blaze at Coutts Crossing.
"Fires can burn at any time of the year but we did see those very strong winds and elevated temperatures over the last few days fuel that fire activity," Mr Allan said.
"The statutory bushfire danger period starts on October 1 but there are some areas each year that do start early and we have six areas in the north of the state that have entered the bushfire danger period," Mr Allan said.
He warned that "over the last couple of years we have seen that increase of rain and definitely flooding", so there's been a significant increase in vegetation, particularly west of the divide where grass growth has been "quite considerable".
"That's now drying out or has dried out in most areas, and that's not to say that we won't see bushfires along the coast, but that grass-fire threat particularly will be of most concern," Mr Allan said.
Expert calls for overhaul to nation's bushfire response
The warnings come as calls intensify to overhaul Australia's bushfire response, with one expert in particular claiming the country's strategy has become outdated.
"Why are we fighting these fires anyway?” University of Tasmania fire expert Professor David Bowman told Yahoo News Australia last week.
“We should have landscapes that are quite safe, but we’re far away from having that.
"We should have houses that are safe, and fire shelters that are safe.”
Mr Bowman pointed to the recent fires in Maui, Hawaii, suggesting that the tragedy should serve as a grave reminder to Australians of what could be in store soon.
“There was no firefighting technology known to humans that could have stopped that thing once it started. It just had to play out,” he said.
“Therefore, you have to think about preparation, you’ve got to think about fuel management. And the big thing of course is sheltering in place, and not evacuating.”
Last week, Mr Bowman argued in an article for The Conversation Australia is “sleepwalking” into a “fiery future” with only 108 days until summer.
He said that he believes we're running out of time to prepare ourselves for what could be a life-threatening season of bushfires.
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