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Australia launches new fire danger rating system

A new nationally consistent fire danger rating system has launched in Australia.

States previously had six different categories, including low-moderate, very high and severe, but the new version has just four.

By simplifying the system, it’s hoped the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) will “improve public safety and reduce the impacts of bushfires”.

An aerial view of Melbourne's green suburbs (left). A burnt out Canberra street (right).
The new fire danger system will operate across all Australian states and territories. Source: Getty

The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) developed the project with state, territory and federal governments.

It will utilise data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) which will include temperature, precipitation, humidity, soil moisture and wind speed.

What are the new categories?

  • Green - Moderate - Plan and prepare

  • Yellow - High - Be ready to act

  • Orange - Extreme - Take action now

  • Red - Catastrophic - For your survival, leave

When the risk is minimal, the indicator bar will drop to a thin white wedge below the other ratings.

Images of the different fire ratings and data explaining them.
A new national fire warning system has been launched. Source: RFS / Getty

How is this bushfire season looking?

BoM has forecast a wetter than average spring and a high chance of a La Niña weather event.

"If we do see that La Niña develop, then there is that potential that we could see a continuation of those wetter conditions persisting into summer as well,” BoM forecaster Diana Eadie said.

A new fire risk sign at Pearl Beach, NSW. Source: Justin Archer
A new fire risk sign at Pearl Beach, NSW. Source: Justin Archer

Above-average winter rainfall has reduced the risk of bushfires this spring across ACT, NSW and Victoria, however authorities have warned against complacency.

“Much of Australia has experienced above-average winter rainfall and this is expected to persist for many regions throughout spring due to a convergence of climate influences,” AFAC said in its outlook.

"Historically, forest fire activity in southeast Australia is lower during a La Niña or negative Indian Ocean Dipole year.

"However, regions that see above average rainfall leading to increased grass vegetation growth can subsequently see an increase in grassfire risk during short periods of warmer and drier conditions within the season."

An old fire danger warning sign with six categories.
Fire danger warning systems previously had six categories. Source: AAP

AFAC’s caution is consistent with advice from the NSW Rural Fire Service which warned rain had boosted grass growth across the state.

It also noted bush regeneration from the 2019/2020 Black Summer bushfires had occurred faster than estimated.

Commissioner Rob Rogers said there would likely be a significant grass fire season during one of the next two summers.

“While it's been wet we don't want people being complacent. Sooner or later... we're in for a big grass fire season,” he said.

with AAP

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