Fire alert, scorcher predicted

By CHRISTIAN STANGER and GENEVIEVE ALLPASS

TWEED fire brigades are poised to swing into action this weekend with the first of a summer of scorching-hot days predicted to strike.

The National Parks department reports there have already been 40 bushfires extinguished this season, while the Far North Community Safety Department is ready to impose a fire ban should conditions deteriorate.

And yesterday the NSW Bureau of Meteorology said record high averages for the first eight months of the year were a strong indication of a summer heatwave.

''We're expecting it to average out as the hottest year on record,'' said bureau climatologist Perry Wiles. With temperatures in Lismore expected to hit 35?C today and the Gold Coast likely to hit 31, people trapped in the middle in the Tweed will be left to swelter. It will be the prelude to a hot, dry summer, Mr Wiles said.

The current high temperatures are being caused by a high pressure system sitting just off the coast which is pushing air in an anti-clockwise direction, forcing air from Australia's centre towards the coast.

''That is where we are getting this hot air from,'' Mr Wiles said. ''The record temperature for Lismore for an October day is 37?C. We probably won't get that high today, but we could come close over the weekend.''

Mr Wiles warned that these hot temperatures coupled with strong winds from the north-west will mean a high fire danger over the next few days.

''Any time temperatures are high and there's a strong wind, there is the threat of fire.''

Far North Coast Community Safety Officer Inspector Laurence McCoy yesterday warned extreme caution should be used in lighting any fires.

Landowners should delay any burning until weather conditions improved, he said.

Inspector McCoy said restrictions would immediately be put in place if weather conditions escalated. He said all Tweed fire brigades were in a high state of preparedness and operationally ready but warned residents to also take their own precautions.

"It is very important that occupants take a certain amount of responsibility and be prepared before a fire actually gets to them," he said. ''It's very important to do it now before it's too late."

Inspector McCoy's said residents should slash long grass around their house, remove leaf litter from gutters and screen windows and vents.

"The majority of homes are lost from ember attack and screening exposed openings can prevent embers from entering and catching on curtains and other household items," he said.



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