Return of El Nino brings fire risk

A DRY summer could pose a major fire risk as swathes of the state, lush from years of flooding rains, begin to brown.

Spring and summer into 2013 are leaning away from the wetter La Nina system that has drenched the state since 2010, returning to a weak form of the drier El Nino.

Higher temperatures and less rain are predicted.

Queensland Fire Assistant Commissioner for Rural Operations Neil Gallant said this summer's relief from the rain could be replaced by a heightened fire danger.

He said the fuel load produced by dried vegetation meant any fire could prove more aggressive particularly in the southern half of the state that did not get the winter rain that other areas did.

"Probably areas west of Toowoomba are drier than other areas."

"Large parts of Western Queensland have had good rainfall in the past few years and the vegetation is particularly thick."

But whether coastal areas along the eastern seaboard of Queensland and northern New South Wales are at risk depends on what happens in coming weeks.

With no rain, those coastal areas could be at risk as well.

Weatherzone meteorologist Josh Fisher said all indicators pointed to conditions akin to a mild El Nino returning.

"There is a high potential we will see drier than normal conditions and temperatures are expected to be higher than normal," he said, "especially compared to the previous too years."

The last El Nino visited the Eastern coast in 2009, but even if it's mild, Mr Gallant warned of likely danger.
"We're not predicting conditions to be extreme," he said.

"But any fires that do start have more fuel to burn so flames might be higher and the ability for them to jump small breaks will be increased.

"We could be in for a very busy season if the conditions are against us."

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