The 2019-20 ACT Bushfire season officially started on 1 October. The ACT Emergency Services advise that Canberra has just experienced the driest winter since 1982. Bushfire seasons are expected to be longer and more dangerous on average as the effects of climate change are felt across the country. The early start to the fire season in northern New South Wales and Queensland should be a warning.
It is time for all horse owners to give serious thought to dusting off their bushfire plan from last year and making sure you are prepared. It is particularly important for those who were too young to remember or were not here in 2003 to be aware of the devastation experienced by the equestrian community during that year’s fire storm and to be encouraged to take preparations seriously.
Horse Agistment Managers in the ACT are required to have a facility bushfire management plan that covers agisted stock along with other property assets, stock and dwellings. They will be sent a reminder to update that plan for this season by ACT Rural Services. Agistees should be aware of that plan and how it will impact on your horse. They should also take responsibility for their own safety and that of their horse. Your horse needs a fire plan. There is advice on how to make decisions about your plan and links to other sources of advice available on the ACTEA website at http://www.actea.asn.au/will-your-horse-stay-or-go
Bear in mind that it will take considerably longer to evacuate a horse from a paddock on the outskirts of Canberra using a float than a family from a house in the suburbs using a car and plan accordingly. Last year, agistees at three centres to the west of Canberra made the choice to leave early in the face of the Pierce’s Creek fire. In the end that fire never crossed the Bullen Range but at its closest it was 8km from Kambah and a timely reminder of how quickly a fire can become big and dangerous.