VICTORIA can expect more than a dozen big bushfires this coming season.Fires this summer will cover between 1000 and 10,000ha and will likely ignite in the grasslands of western Victoria.
This forecast is the "gut-feel" of the state's senior firefighter, Country Fire Authority chief officer Euan Ferguson.
"We're going to have a real fire season this year," Mr Ferguson predicted.
The past two seasons had been as much about floods as fire, but the return to a "traditional" fire season was plain to see, he said.
A run of wet seasons, the lack of rain since mid-spring and long-range forecasts for a hot, dry summer have the veteran fireman expecting the worst.
CFA chief executive Mick Bourke said the nightmare of Black Saturday was fading from the minds of many Victorians.
"There's complacency out there again," Mr Ferguson said.
Mr Bourke said the CFA was prepared as well as it could be with new command structures, equipment and training.
Authorities have identified the lush and now dry grass and grain stubbles of western Victoria as the highest risk.
"It has been drying out very rapidly; there has been virtually no rain in the area since early October," Mr Bourke said.
Of growing concern is the population drain from many rural areas, which takes away volunteers.
Mr Bourke said volunteer numbers - 39,000 active and almost 60,000 overall - still made a powerful force.
But like the farmers they mostly are, the volunteers are ageing, and the reinforcements are coming on the fringes of urban areas, not out in the bush.
Mr Bourke said that, because of this, "it might take longer to get a truck out of the shed".
Mr Ferguson said the CFA's core message this season would be to "don't put off" any fire prevention or fire planning.
- With AAP