Bushfire program goes up in smoke

A 30-HECTARE hazard reduction burn was done  yesterday to prepare for fire season, sending a large plume of smoke above west Lake Macquarie mountains.

It was a ‘‘perfect day’’ for the burn, National Parks and Wildlife Service Lower Hunter area manager Deon van Rensburg said.

The wildlife service and Rural Fire Service conducted the burn in Sugarloaf State Conservation Area.

‘‘We have to be strategic, we can’t burn the entire landscape,’’ Mr van Rensburg said.

‘‘We burn where we get the best bang for our buck for protecting properties.’’

He said the burning ‘‘does no harm’’ to biodiversity because particular areas were burnt only occasionally.

The burn was part of the NSW government’s $62.5million plan to ‘‘boost bushfire preparedness’’.

The wildlife service plans to burn an average of 135,000 hectares in NSW a year.

Rural Fire Service spokesman Brendan Doyle said it was too early to say whether the coming summer would present favourable conditions for bushfires.

At this stage, the Bureau of Meteorology was ‘‘not looking at it being overly dry or overly wet’’.

Mr Doyle said now was a good time for reviewing bushfire survival plans and doing hazard-reduction burns.

Weatherwatch spokesman Don White said yesterday’s temperatures were ‘‘a little bit above normal’’ but not unusual.

The mercury hit a high of 24.8degrees at Williamtown, while Lake Macquarie and Maitland recorded highs of 24.6degrees. 

‘‘The whole of winter has been very warm and is heading towards one of our warmest winters on record,’’ Mr White said.

‘‘The next few days will stay fairly warm.’’

Mr White said the region could have warm weather until the early part of September, but added ‘‘winter is not over yet, so don’t pack away your winter woollies’’.

STRATEGIC: National Parks and Wildlife Service field officer Allan Williams monitors a hazard reduction burn at Ryhope yesterday.  Picture: Peter Stoop

STRATEGIC: National Parks and Wildlife Service field officer Allan Williams monitors a hazard reduction burn at Ryhope yesterday. Picture: Peter Stoop