Large parts of Australia are facing an increased risk of summer bushfires, with record-breaking dry spring conditions and warmer-than-average temperatures expected to continue.
Despite recent widespread heavy rain and floods, all states have been placed on heightened alert following the release of the Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for the coming summer.
Large parts of Queensland, NSW and the Northern Territory are most at risk while certain regions in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are also vulnerable.
Significant rain over the past few years has led to more vegetation growth and difficult conditions to complete hazard reduction burns, according to the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services report.
The conditions will continue to dry out fuel loads, including some affected during the 2019/20 Black Summer season, increasing the risk of large bush and grassfires.
The current El Nino weather event of rising sea surface temperatures is tipped to peak in December or January.
The outlook points to above-normal fire potential in large areas of eastern, central and northern NSW with the drought expected to worsen.
Queensland is "primed" for an extended fire season, particularly around the North Tropical Coast, while there's also above-normal fire potential in central areas of the Northern Territory.
Southern parts of South Australia are at risk with higher fuel loads along transportation routes and Tasmania's southeast has been put on alert.
Forest and shrubland areas in southern Western Australia face an above-average fire danger and the ACT faces a normal bushfire risk.
Authorities are also concerned about western and central Victoria, with Victorian Country Fire Authority chief officer Jason Heffernan warning suburbs in the Melbourne's west could be under threat.
"I do expect to see fires encroaching in the Melbourne metropolitan region, particularly on the outskirts," Mr Heffernan told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday.
Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said the outlook was a clear reminder all Australians need to be prepared.
"Compared with the spring outlook, more capital cities are facing increased risk and of course a lot of Aussies moved to new areas post-COVID, which means larger populations that may be less familiar with bushfire and heatwave preparation," Senator Watt said.
"I urge people to be aware of the local risk, update their bushfire plans and pack emergency and evacuation kits."
Emergency leaders for Climate Action founder Greg Mullins said fire seasons were getting longer and starting earlier.
He likened this year's outlook to 2018, when fires tore through parts of Queensland, Tasmania and NSW, with homes lost on the NSW south coast by early August.
Mr Mullins warned emergency services would be under extreme pressure on the most severe fire weather days.
"We've reached the capacity of fire services worldwide, we actually can't fight fires on the worst days - we have to take cover ourselves as they blast through," he told a Climate Council media briefing.
Australian Associated Press