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Warnings of unprecedented grass fire risk in Australia

Canberra, Feb 22 (IANS) Australia is facing unprecedented grassfire risk in the summer of 2023/24, experts have warned.

According to a new report published on Wednesday, three years of wet conditions have left Australia with high fuel loads for fires, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Climate Council and Emergency Leaders for Climate Action (ELCA) — a group made up of senior fire and emergency service leaders — analyzed what happened after previous prolonged periods of La Nina conditions from 1954-57, 1973-76 and 1998-2001.

They found that after each period ended, severe and deadly fires followed.

Vegetation fuel loads in some inland areas usually range between 0.5 and 1.5 tonnes per hectare but after years of heavy rain are now between 4.5 and six tonnes per hectare.

Greg Mullins, a former commissioner of Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW) and founder of the ELCA who authored the report, said Australia is set for a return to normal or above normal fire conditions in 2023-24 following three low-risk years in the wake of the 2019-20 Black Summer.

“Excessive rainfall in recent years has caused prolific vegetation growth in Australia, which is now drying and turning into fire fuel as we experience hotter, drier conditions,” he said in a media release.

“Firefighters fear that grass fires occurring in hot, dry and windy conditions worsened by climate change could unfold on a scale never before experienced, potentially overwhelming emergency services at times, and placing communities at great risk.”

Mullins said governments at all levels need to urgently invest in measures that help communities withstand and cope with worsening climate impacts, and accelerate efforts to rapidly lower greenhouse gas emissions this decade to avoid catastrophic climate impacts.

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