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Rural firefighters are on high alert as fuel load soars

THE wetter-than-normal winter and expected hot weather this spring has the region's rural firefighters on high alert for the first major bushfire of the season.

Rural firefighters Warwick area group officer Alan Payne said he was very concerned by what the bushfire season would bring over the coming months.

"The wet weather means we have not been able to get in all the controlled burns that we wanted to," he said.

"We have got some in, but it went from being wet to being to dry very quickly. The burn window was only very small.

"We are very concerned for the bushfire season this year as the fuel load is a lot higher than for other years."

While Mr Payne said everyone on the Southern Downs should be preparing their properties for bushfire season, it was incredibly important for those west of Warwick.

"In the area from Texas up through Millmerran and Karara, and in towards the west of Warwick, there is a huge amount of dry fuel," he said.

Mr Payne said there were some simple steps people could take to help protect their homes over the next few months.

"It is important people make sure they clean the debris from around their house, and clean all of the rubbish out of their gutters," he said.

"You need to put breaks in place, either a graded one or slashed ones."

Mr Payne said the rural firefighters across the region were ready to act.

"We are well equipped and have been doing lots of training," he said.

It is not just the rural firefighters who are concerned about the big bushfire season.

Ergon Energy executive general manager of operations Peter Billing said the fires could result in power disruptions.

"Following favourable wet seasons in some parts of the state, there is an abundance of on-ground fuel and a heightened level of alert for Ergon Energy, fire authorities and property owners alike," he said.

"Over the past few years, the impact of bushfires on our organisation has been significant and apart from the obvious increased safety issues and costs involved, there is also the added inconvenience placed on the community through unnecessary disruption to power supply," he said.

"Another important factor to consider is that pole fires pose a potential serious safety risk to the community.

"Obviously when a pole is burnt down the power lines are brought down as well and this is something we are very concerned about from a public safety perspective."

Mr Billing said overall the number of fire-related electrical incidents had decreased by 15% from the 2011/2012 season to the 2012/2013 season.

"But the number of power poles destroyed by fire during that period had risen from 229 to 251 across Ergon's regional Queensland supply area," he said.

"In the past financial year this means nearly 10,000 customers lost supply due to fire-related activity on average for around 5.9 hours.

"In financial terms of having to replace damaged or destroyed equipment this meant an impost on Ergon Energy's bottom line of around $2 million."

In case of a fire phone 000 immediately.

For more bushfire safety tips visit www.ruralfire.gov.au.

What to do if there is a fire in the area

Listen to local broadcasts or check websites for updates.

Put on protective clothing.

Drink lots of water.

Move car/s to a safe location.

Close windows and doors and shut blinds.

Take down curtains and move furniture away from windows.

Bring pets inside and restrain them and provide water.

Block downpipes (at the top) and fill gutters with water if possible.

Wet down the sides of buildings and close shrubbery in the likely path of the bushfire.

Wet down fire fuels close to buildings.

Turn on sprinklers in garden for 30 minutes before bushfire arrives.



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