Page 721 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 28 March 2023

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Services) (11.33): I would like to make a statement with regard to the end of the high-risk weather season. As the official 2022-23 high-risk weather season comes to a close this week, on 31 March 2023, I rise today to provide the Assembly and the community with a summary of the season.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the ACT Emergency Services Agency and the ACT Parks and Conservation Service for their collaborative efforts in preparing for and protecting the ACT community during the 2022-23 high-risk weather season. I would like to pass on my sincere gratitude to all those involved in keeping the Canberra community safe.

The Australian Government Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña alert for the 2022-23 spring and summer periods. La Niña events increase the chances of above-average rainfall. Over the past 12 months, wet weather has affected large areas of eastern Australia, including the ACT, which has experienced flash and minor riverine flooding, intense storm activity and damaging winds.

The bureau’s outlook for February to April 2023 is for a return to more normal weather conditions. It is estimated that rainfall will be below the median and temperatures will be warmer than the median. This scenario, on the back of the wet weather over the past 12 months, may see some continuance of potential grassfires over the April period. It will also allow agencies to continue hazard reduction activities that were deferred due to the wet weather conditions of the past two years.

As of 1 March 2023, the ACT Rural Fire Service responded to 29 grassfires during the 2022-23 bushfire season. Two of the grassfires were ignited on 15 January 2023. An initial fire started near Gordon from dry conditions and lightning strikes, and a second fire was reported around 1½ hours after the first ignition. Fire crews responded quickly and were able to extinguish both fires, keeping them two and one hectares in size. Aircraft was effectively utilised for both fires. One of the waterbombing helicopters minimised fire spread until ground crews arrived on the scene.

A fire started on Mt Ainslie on 5 February 2023 and was effectively contained and quickly extinguished by ACT Rural Fire Service and ACT Fire and Rescue crews. Yet again, aerial firefighting capability enhanced the response and was critical in supporting ground crews. This fire produced a smoke plume that was visible to the community from the city and surrounding suburbs and triggered multiple emergency triple-zero calls to the ESA Communications Centre.

The largest fire of the 2022-23 fire season started on 28 February with an accidental ignition at the Australian Federal Police training centre and then jumped into the Australian Defence Force Majura range. This fire burned approximately nine hectares, as crews were unable to access the area due to the presence of unexploded ordnance. The response reflected the excellent relationship and close cooperation between the ESA, AFP and ADF in dealing with the complexities of fires of this nature.

ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers and PCS have been able to implement hazard reduction and cultural burns during the past month. Although the ACT is in the declared fire season, weather conditions have been within prescription to allow the burns to be completed in a safe environment.

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