Preparing for bushfire season in NSW

Josey Sharrad, IFAW’s Native Wildlife Campaigner attends launch of Department of Primary Industries’(DPI)  response trailers with colleagues from DPI and other supporting organisations. With bushfire season upon us, preparedness is key.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) oversees the management of animals and agriculture in disasters and biosecurity incidents. In big disasters the government can't manage alone, so it has sensibly put together a network of supporting agencies with capacity and expertise and in pets, livestock and wildlife whom it can call upon to assist during emergencies.

IFAW is one of these supporting organisations and I attended an emergency planning meeting with other groups including the RSPCA, Local Land Services, Animal Welfare League, Sydney Wildlife and WIRES.

The meeting was held at the Elizabeth MacArthur Agricultural Institute in Menangle. The facility hosts a state-of-the-art, high-level quarantine animal research and diagnostic laboratory where they research diseases such as Hendra and Bluetongue as well as various vaccines. It also acts as an HQ Operations Command Centre in emergencies.

The Rural Fire Service gave us an overview of this season’s bushfire outlook. As many people know, we are experiencing an El Niño weather pattern which brings warmer and drier conditions.  This is not good news on the bushfire front, as decreased rainfall and increased temperatures result in forest fuels such as leaves and foliage, drying out much quicker. Add in the increased chance of rain storms and lightning, more bushfires are expected to be triggered.

The weather bureau is predicting a 50% chance of rain and 50% of sun all summer - a potentially lethal mix! So far it has been a relatively quiet year for fires in NSW; however other States have not been so lucky, this has allowed the RFS to assist interstate colleagues fight fires in SA, WA, VIC and NT.

As the meeting drew to a close, the DPI launched its new Emergency Response Trailers which can be deployed to disasters and events with all the vital equipment and facilities to capture, contain, treat and transport animals. The trailers are really impressive and will be a huge asset to all the groups working in this field.

Let's hope we don't have the need to deploy it this season, but if we do, we know we will be prepared.

--JS 

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