The West

WA warned  of summer  fire danger
Looming danger: Bushfire season is approaching. Picture: The West Australian

Southern parts of WA, including Perth, are at an increased risk of bushfires this summer after another dry winter and historically warm temperatures this year.

The Federal Government's bushfire research body released its annual outlook for the coming summer fire season yesterday, finding that it was expected to be a long and dangerous one.

It said most of WA would be at "above-normal" risk of bushfires, with bone-dry soils and high fuel loads in vegetated areas in the South West particularly exposed.

The warning comes after a long-term decline in rainfall averages across the region and a gradually warming climate - August was Perth's hottest since records began.

"Fire severity across southern Australia has been consistently worse than the long-term averages would suggest," the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre said.

"This is partly driven by an increase in temperatures as well as an increased dryness of soils and vegetation."

The report also comes after the Department of Parks and Wildlife - the WA agency responsible for bushfire management - conceded that it was becoming increasingly difficult to do controlled burns.

The department again failed to meet its self-imposed prescribed burning target of 200,000ha across the South West last year, managing just 78,234ha.

In what amounts to a major policy change, the agency said it would switch its focus to burning smaller parcels of land around built-up areas in future rather than prioritising wholesale burns.

The Insurance Council leapt on the findings.

It urged people to get ready for the bushfire season, noting the phenomena had "caused billions of dollars of damage across Australia and insurance losses of more than $1.5 billion" over the past decade.

Under moves to overhaul WA's bushfire laws and make individuals responsible for risks, landowners are facing spot checks of their semirural lots, while councils and State Government agencies could be forced to reduce fuel loads.

'Fire severity across southern Australia has been consistently worse than the long-term averages would suggest.'" *Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre *

The West Australian

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