After the spring rain comes summer’s risks


THE problem with an unusually wet winter and early spring is that it runs the risk of setting the region up for a dangerous summer. And that’s where we find ourselves now.

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During July, August and September – as record rainfall lashed the Central West and the region’s rivers, creeks and dams were swollen to bursting point – there was more than one Orange resident who wondered aloud whether we’d had enough of the rain for a while.

But it’s a fair bet that a drop or two would be welcomed now that the district has dried out and temperatures in the mid-30s are forecast for the end of the week.

Orange residents – like most Australians – are used to living with a bushfire threat during the hottest months of the year, but the big rain of a few months ago has heightened the risks this time around.

Grass fires around Orange in the past month are just a taste of what can go wrong very quickly when the conditions are conducive to fire.

In Bathurst last Tuesday a fire spread to cover 17 hectares before it was finally brought under control by crews from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) and Fire and Rescue NSW after two hours.

It came within 40 metres of homes, a terrifying ordeal for the property owners and their families.

Forecast rainfall over the Christmas weekend, which would have dampened the threat, at least temporarily, didn’t arrive, so our firefighters will be facing a nervous wait this week before the next chance of showers is forecast for the end of the week.

In the meantime, we can all play our part by observing total fire ban days, keeping vegetation under control on our properties and alerting the NSW Rural Fire Service at the first sign of any trouble.

There are many sounds that mark an Australian summer: cicadas, the boom and crackle of a passing thunderstorm, the hum of air-conditioners on a still night on a suburban street, the sound of radio cricket commentary floating over the fence from a neighbour’s backyard.

And then there is the sound of a water-bombing helicopter flying off to douse a blaze somewhere not too far away.

It’s a sound we’ll have to hope we don’t hear too much of this summer.  The shame would be that a wet early spring, which was a dream for so many of our district’s farmers, turned out to be a nightmare for the rest of us.