THIS year's belated start to fire hazard reduction in the Macleay region has been due to weather and not the coronavirus.
That summation coincides with the start of the hazard reduction program, which gets underway today at Hat Head National Park by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Rural Fire Service (RFS).
Hazard reductions can be controlled burnings of bushland, clearing land with machinery or even reducing vegetation by hand.
NSW RFS Mid Coast district officer Stuart Robb said weather has been the main variant this year.
"We are complying with all of the COVID restrictions that are set out by State Government and we can maintain safe social distancing when undertaking hazard reductions, however, we have just experienced wetter than average days over the last couple of months and are just starting to see that dry out," Mr Robb said.
"Whilst you might have a beautiful blue sky day, comfortable temperatures and very low wind, it may be that you have only had that for a couple of days so the fuel moisture levels on the ground are still too wet."
Mr Robb explained what factors come in to play when deciding priority reduction burn areas.
"This all comes from the bushfire risk management plan - the agency is responsible for all the landholders across the region and they come up with a set of risks, and those are listed within the plan and that gets reviewed periodically. It's the tool to prioritise what areas are the greater risk," he said.
He noted that weather isn't the only obstacle for hazard reduction work.
"The challenge that you have with hazard reduction burning, is that you are also managing vegetation, so there are certain windows or timelines that you can only burn certain types of habitat and vegetation species," he said.
With RFS Lower North Coast having to cover over 14,000 square kiolmetres of bushland, this precaution is not taken lightly, especially in lieu of the enormous losses that Kempsey suffered during the 2019 bushfires.
"Hazard reduction is one tool in the tool box to minimise the impact of fire in the community, but it's also crucial to have Bushfire Survival Plans and properties prepared to also mitigate the chances of fires starting," Mr Robb said.
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