Mid North Coast ready for fire season

04 Aug 2004

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Mid North Coast forest firefighters have been warned to expect a severe fire season this year.

Forestry Corporation fire branch manager, Paul de Mar, told a pre-season fire meeting in Wauchope that much of the state was in the grip of a severe drought, with some areas experiencing the worst conditions since record-keeping began in 1876.

“Most of the state is in severe rain deficit,” Mr de Mar said.

“In fire fighting terms, this means we are down to making mineral earth breaks around fires.

“And it means that we have to be careful in mopping up fires, as there will be many roots burning underground.

Mr de Mar said some areas on the coast had a 1m to 2.5m rain deficit over the past three years.

“This is an absolutely unbelievable season to be in,” Mr de Mar said.

Matt Potter, left, resources forester for Forestry Corporation Mid North Coast region based at Wauchope, and Dave Couchman, forest assistant with Future Forests at Wauchope, step up the pace in the task based assessment for forest fire fighters

Matt Potter, left, resources forester for Forestry Corporation Mid North Coast region based at Wauchope, and Dave Couchman, forest assistant with Future Forests at Wauchope, step up the pace in the task based assessment for forest fire fighters

“The Mid North Coast has had the driest April and June on record, so it is not only in long-term drought, but the worst few months as well.

“Most areas of the State have had less rain in the lead up to this season than they had in the 2001 season, which was the worst for some time.”

Mr de Mar said if there was below average rain for the rest of winter and spring, New South Wales was heading for the most severe fire season it had ever faced.

Forestry Corporation, formerly State Forests of NSW, is now part of the Department of Primary Industries.

This is the second year that Forestry Corporation fire fighting staff have been required to pass task-based assessments of their fire fighting fitness.

The task-based assessments are designed to measure how each fire fighter can cope.

The physical test will involve carrying an 11.3 kilogram pack over 3.22 kilometres in under 30 minutes. Staff who want to be considered for future international deployment will undertake a more gruelling test, carrying 20.4 kilograms for 4.83 kilometres within 45 minutes.

Other staff who might attend the fire line to deliver logistical support will be required to complete a shorter walk.

“Last year was the first time these fitness tests were required, and the vast majority of our staff passed with flying colours,” said Forestry Corporation acting Mid North Coast regional manager, Kathy Jones.

“We have maintained a forest fire fighting capability for decades, so these tests are building on that already wide experience.”

Firefighting tests will be conducted in other regions as the season progresses.

Media contact: Kathy Jones on 6585 3744.