Rain brings bushfire warnings

Daniel EmersonThe West Australian

If you thought above-average rain in parts of WA this winter paved the way for a mild bushfire season, think again.

Downpours had made vast tracts of Mid West more vulnerable to fire by fuelling high grasses which would be dry in summer, scientists warned yesterday.

High fuel loads are wreaking havoc in the north, where WA's fire authority battled a blaze threatening homes in the Kimberley yesterday.

The official seasonal outlook by the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre think tank warned of "above normal" risk of bushfire in most of WA, including the South West, in 2013-14.

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Twin curses of above and below average rainfall in different regions heightened the potential for fires, according to the Bushfire CRC's annual outlook.

"Across the Mid West and desert regions, above-normal fire potential is expected as a consequence of high rainfall, which resulted in high annual grass growth and fuel loads," it said.

"Above-normal bushfire potential is also forecast in the South West, which had reduced rainfall, soil moisture deficit and high fuel loads."

But the above-normal bushfire risk area does not extend right across the country, as in 2012-13.

Rains in any given winter are critical in determining the number and intensity of grass fires the next summer.

Average to below-average rain in the Wheatbelt yielded average fuel loads and its Bushfire CRC rating was "normal potential".

At Fitzroy Crossing, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services responded at 1.13pm to a blaze bearing down on the Junjuwa community near the airport and warned residents to leave.

By 6pm residents from Junjuwa and nearby Burawa were moved to an aged-care centre if they could not stay with friends or relatives.

The Kimberley and Pilbara had well above-average rain this year.

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