New study shows bushfire risk rising for Yarra Ranges towns

Regrowth after the Black Saturday fires in 2009 is one of the risk factors for Yarra Ranges towns identified in a new report. (Sun Herald)

NEW research has shown Yarra Ranges towns are likely to face an increased risk of major bushfires in the coming years, as authorities warn residents to start planning for the worst.

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning’s strategic bushfire management plan for the region, published last year, used bushfire simulation software to determine the likely spread and intensity of fires in the area.

According to the modelling, high-risk towns in the local catchment extend from East Warburton to Reefton, west to Seville East, north to Healesville and south to Powelltown.

The current risk factors, including the heavily forested areas near properties that reduce opportunities for burn-offs, are compounded by expected future weather conditions.

Climate projections point to reduced average rainfall and at least a 15 per cent increase in the number of extreme fire days, the department noted.

Experts are also anticipating a rise in the number of days hotter than 35C and the frequency and duration of droughts.

And with the memory of Black Saturday still fresh in the minds of Yarra Ranges residents, the report notes the residual bushfire risk has risen steadily since the catastrophic widespread burning of vegetation in 2009.

“The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires reduced residual risk to about 45 per cent, but it has steadily increased since then to 73 per in mid-2014,” the reports states.

“While our planned burning will reduce the rate of increase, residual risk will continue to rise in our landscape as fuels re-accumulate in the ash forest burnt in 2009.”

Prompted by the department’s report, Yarra Ranges Council has started a campaign aimed at ensuring residents are well equipped to handle the threat of bushfire in 2015 and beyond…

Read more by Thomas O’Byrne, Lilydale & Yarra Valley Leader (Sun Herald) 16 January 2015

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