Australia’s Rainfall Forecast Gives Hope to Firefighters

By Sue Byamba
Sue Byamba
Sue Byamba
January 14, 2020Updated: January 14, 2020

The rainfall forecast for Australia’s fire-ravaged east coast is bringing hope to embattled firefighters, with the cumulative rainfall for the rest of the week predicted to be more than 25 millimeters (almost an inch) for large areas of the east coast, where most of the wildfires have been concentrated.

The rainfall, while not enough to be drought-breaking, could bring a temporary reprieve for some of the firefighters who are working hard to contain the blazes.

Thunderstorms and showers forecast for the states of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania beginning Jan. 16 are predicted to produce welcome downpours, most likely concentrated around elevated regions and patchy in other areas, depending on where the storms form, according to the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), which is Australia’s national weather, climate, and water agency.

Rain isn’t in the forecast for South Australia, where many fires are still burning.

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) wrote on Facebook: “If this rainfall forecast comes to fruition, then this will be all of our, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding, and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed.”

BOM meteorologist Gabrielle Woodhouse told the Daily Mail that she’s looking forward to the rain, hoping that it will help ease fire conditions in the region. But she warned that there are also risks posed by heavy rains so soon after the fires.

“We are looking at a couple of days in a row of some showers and thunderstorms, some of which may produce significant accumulation over those couple of days,” Woodhouse said.

“It will be quite welcome but there are some extra dangers and risks associated with it, as the landscape is quite vulnerable with the fire damage. We’ve lost a lot of vegetation and there is the risk of landslips.”

RFS spokesperson Anthony Bradstreet told the Australian edition of The Guardian that the rainfall isn’t likely to be enough to douse all the fires across the state.

“With the period of drought we’ve experienced, we’d need to get extended periods of consistent rainfall in order to get the moisture content up enough for it to put out fires … which is unlikely,” he said.

He explained that firefighters in his state will take advantage of the rain to establish and strengthen containment lines on about 40 wildfires.

As of Jan. 12, more than 100 fires were burning across NSW alone, according to the RSF.

The Gospers Mountain fire, one of the county’s most damaging fires, which has been burning for two and a half months, was brought under control on Jan. 12.

“After lightning started the fire on Oct. 26, it has burned through more than 512,000 hectares [about 1.27 million acres] across the Lithgow, Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley, Cudgegong, Blue Mountains, and Central Coast local government areas,” the Hawkesbury RFS said on Facebook.

“It is important to remember not to be complacent as there are still a few months of the bushfire season to go, with some bushland that still has not been burnt.”