Border fire services have explained the baffling situation whereby a total fire ban can be declared in Wodonga but not Albury.
Rural Fire Service Superintendent Pat Westwood said different terrains played a role in total fire ban declarations, with the Eastern Riverina region predominately grassland.
“There are areas of forests, which pose a significant risk, but not as much as in North East Victoria,” he said
“The reason for the lower rating at the moment is that we’ve had the driest winter in 60 years, one of the driest winters on record which means grass growth is quite low – bringing the fire danger rating down.”
Mr Westwood said after a dry winter there was less fuel on the ground with a grass land tonnage of about one to two ton per hectare in the region, below the average of four to five tone per hectare.
“One factor [in considering a total fire ban] is how much fuel is around and how dry fuels are,” he said.
“Last winter’s rain caused extra growth in the area increasing the fire risk significantly but this year we’ve seen a significant decline in grass growth which was also experienced across the agriculture sector.”
Mr Westwood said regardless, fires still occur and people should not be complacent.
Country Fire Authority District 24 operations officer Adrian Gutsche said the district covered a vast area beyond Wodonga.
“It goes half way to Shepparton and not quite down to Seymour – it only needs 10 per cent of that area [to be in danger] to hit the trigger point,” he said.
The Eastern Riverina area extends from Albury to Wagga.
Mr Gutsche said the CFA declared a total fire ban on Tuesday as the fire danger indicator was severe in a number of Victorian fire districts.
He said a whole state ban sent a clear message to residents about the possible dangers.
“Generally it’s based on weather predictions, how long a run of hot weather we’ve had,” he said.
“It’s also a tool, by declaring it across the state hopefully it prevents one, two or three fires occurring.”
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