PROPERTY owners are warned to remain vigilant for a 'frightening' fire season, despite a successful hazard reduction burning program this year.
The Mid North Coast has the potential to experience an active fire season, following an unusually warm and dry year, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and landowners.
NSW RFS district officer Stuart Robb said the weather is moving out of the normal hazard reduction burning conditions and into the storm season.
"Our hazard reduction burning program has been tracking as per it typically would each year," he said.
"We're now in a position at the end of the hazard reduction period so the chances of any further reductions will reduce if the conditions remain what they are currently.
"Communities need to be very sensitive to the fact that it's drier than it has been in a number of years, it seems to be hotter than it has been in a number of years and all of those factors increase the likelihood of fire breaking out.
"Communities need to be vigilant at this time. While our hazard reduction works have been going ahead they have obviously been suspended while we are dealing with bushfires.
"Indicators are saying that we could have continued long dry periods and weather forecasting is indicating no substantial rain for us in the medium term. That is just going to put continued pressure on the landscape for the risk of fire."
The bushfire danger period for the Mid North Coast was pushed forward a month by NSW Rural Fire Service, starting on August 1.
Rainfall is likely to be below average for late 2019 and early 2020. Daytime temperatures are predicted to be above average from October to January, according to the BOM climate outlook.
Cedar Valley landowner Lisa McLeod was a recovery coordinator in the Pappinbarra fires of February 2017, which consumed more than 1200 hectares and destroyed six houses.
She said as a landholder it's a 'frightening' season to be heading into.
"It's been probably about eight years since we have had to cart water for ourselves in Pappinbarra, but if we don't get more substantial rain we will be carting water in probably five weeks for our house," she said.
"We have no stock on our land but if we did we would have a real problem supplying them with water. It is dire for a lot of people.
"From a fire point of view we need a couple of hundred millilitres to dampen any fire situation in the coming season.
"The ground moisture is so low that we really need three or four hundred millimetres from my understanding.
"The last fire at Pappinbarra came to my boundary across the Pappinbarra Road and that was scary. That could easily happen again and there's areas in Pappinbarra which haven't had a fire through them for decades."
East coastal areas of many States including NSW and parts of southern Western Australia and South Australia are facing above average fire potential, according to the BOM.
BOM climatologist Felicity Gamble said weather conditions are warmer and drier due to irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures.
"Warmer and drier than average conditions are likely to continue at least until the end of spring for much of NSW," she said.
"This is largely a result of the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) being in a positive phase, which typically means below average rainfall during winter-spring for southern and central Australia.
"Warmer than average winter-spring days are also likely over the southern two-thirds of Australia during a positive IOD, and an early start to the southern bushfire season is also often observed.
"IOD events are unable to form (and therefore influence Australian climate) once the monsoon trough moves into the southern hemisphere, usually from December to April, so we anticipate this pattern to start breaking down towards the end of 2019."
Hollisdale Rural Fire Brigade spokesman Chris Roelandts said residents have been conducting hazard reduction burning in preparation for what could be a busy fire danger period.
"The people around here have been doing their cleaning up over the winter break," he said.
"Our biggest problem is water, we were struggling to find water two weeks ago and the river has stopped.
"This the worst I've seen it here for dryness. If we don't get substantial rain we are certainly going to struggle.
"I've been here 22 years and I've seen houses that I've never seen before. It's all because of the drought, all of the undergrowth between trees has died off."
A Forestry Corporation spokesperson said the corporation is working closely with the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Fire and Rescue this season.
"Each year we engage teams of seasonal staff to bolster firefighting capacity and hold training days for our firefighters right across the State," the spokeswoman said.
"This year's training also includes an expanded focus on protecting property during bushfire emergencies and we're working closely with the Rural Fire Service to upskill our forest firefighting staff on property protection this year.
"Our trained firefighters will be on standby for the fire season, ensuring we can help manage the impact of bushfires, wherever they happen.
"Forestry Corporation spends the cooler months of the year preparing roads and fire trails, completing hazard reduction burns, upgrading its equipment to reduce the risk of fire and ensuring its crews are well prepared heading into summer."
- For information on restocking dams used for fire fighting purposes contact the department of primary industries or the office of emergency management.
- To stay up to date with fires across the Mid North Coast and regional NSW, download the Fires Near Me App, or visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
- Residents are encouraged to prepare their property for potential fires by creating a fire survival plan. Go to www.myfireplan.com.au