Bushfires matching the deadly ferocity of those in Victoria could devastate the Eurobodalla if dangerous conditions were to combine.
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That was the feeling yesterday of Rural Fire Service (RFS) acting Region South manager Andrew Stark, who pointed to a 1994 fire which threatened Batemans Bay as evidence.
“It moved into the community very quickly, so history says the potential remains the same each summer,” he said.
Mr Stark was responding to reports that the RFS in the Eurobodalla had experienced a surge in volunteers over the past six months.
He said tragedies like the Victorian fires moved people to take action.
“I would say that the interest is four times greater this year than it was last year,” he said.
“It would be to do with the Victorian fires but also to do with the fact that we had a lot of fire activity on the South Coast over the past 12 months, so people have a heightened awareness.”
Ninety per cent of the Eurobodalla is heavily forested, which means the potential for a fire to move quickly into the community exists.
“We have talked a lot about the fact that people need to be aware and prepared around their property in the event of fire,” Mr Stark said.
“The same way surf life savers don’t get caught in rips, brigade members through their training and experience gain strong knowledge.”
Bega MP Andrew Constance has welcomed the influx of new volunteers to the service.
“Given that there has been a need for more firefighters in the region, this is a much welcomed development,” he said.
“The surge of RFS volunteers has come largely from the Victorian bushfire disaster which touched many people across NSW.
“The large-scale loss of life and property has come as a brutal reminder of the importance of being prepared.”
The bushfire season in the Eurobodalla begins on October 1 and Mr Stark is encouraging anyone interested in volunteering to the service to do so now.
“People often remark that it’s something they’ve considered doing for a long time,” he said.
“It’s important they put themselves forward now and don’t wait for the season to begin, because come October onwards it’s hard for us to provide adequate training.”
Dry conditions and the threat of an el nino have the potential to make the 2009 bushfire season one of the worst in recent years.
“It’s certainly much drier than we would expect for this time of year,” Mr Stark said.
“If we don’t have a wet spring we will certainly enter summer in dangerous conditions.”