Bushfire threat still real

IS the North Coast in for a repeat of the horrific bushfires of 1994, or will wet conditions, which have hampered burnoffs in recent weeks, continue throughout summer as predicted?

With about 18 months of wet conditions promoting strong growth throughout NSW, the Rural Fire Service responded to 160 bush and grass fires across NSW last week.

In the same period, the Clarence Valley RFS had no bush or grass fires to contend with.

Clarence Valley district manager for the RFS Stuart Watts said landholders couldn't afford to be complacent about their fire protection obligations despite revised models predicting a continuation of the La Nina weather pattern.

"At this point in time the Clarence Valley is fairly safe, we've had low to moderate fire ratings for quite some time, but things can change quite quickly," he said. "The last time we had a big wet in the lead up to horrible fires was in 1994 ... that's our only fear at the moment."

Mr Watts said wet conditions were prevalent in 1994 right up until the end of the school term but conditions dried rapidly over the following weeks and several bushfire emergencies were declared throughout the state and the whole North Coast ended up with substantial fires.

"We are monitoring the situation to make sure history does not repeat itself," he said.

He asked people with hazard reduction permits to monitor fire signs or meters (on roads and on the RFS website) and to only burn off when the fire danger was below moderate.

He said authorities had been busy with their own burnoffs but recent rains were hampering efforts.

Mr Watts said the RFS said the west and south-west of the state were in the most danger at present and local volunteers were being prepared to assist if necessary.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the drought-breaking rainfall of the past 18 months has resulted in grass growth levels that have not been seen for 30 to 40 years in NSW.

"Once this grass cures and dies, it becomes a fire hazard and no amount of rain will bring dead grass back to life."

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