THE fire season has already reached northwest Victoria and could be less than a month away for the rest of the state.David Packham, who was a CSIRO bushfire researcher for 18 years and worked as the Bureau of Meteorology's Rural Fire Weather Warning Services supervisor, said tomorrow could be the first fire day of the season across southern Victoria.
Mr Packham said conditions reminded him of January 8, 1969, when serious grass fires occurred in the west and central north of the state and 17 people died in the Lara fire on the Geelong Rd, while Yea was overrun from a fire that started to its west and north on the Hume Highway.
''Then, as now the grass had some greenness left which always knocks the spread rate and intensity down,'' he said.
''We are nowhere near a Black Saturday - this time possibly a light grey Saturday.
''I don't expect a disaster day but a difficult one.''
Mr Packham said there was still time to reduce fuel loads in the state's south and east before evaporation raised the danger level.
''The shortage of grazing stock and not much roadside management means that we are certain to suffer fast moving and dangerous fires in the (western district) grasslands during January and February if we don't get sufficient rain to maintain greenness,'' he said.
But the extreme dryness of the northwest had already reached levels as bad as those which occurred in 2009 ahead of the Black Saturday fires.
This was being periodically aggravated by bursts of hot and very, very dry air from central Australia since early October.
''This is very dangerous indeed and would be catastrophic if in January or February,'' he said.
''I expect we will have grass fires in the northwest and central north (tomorrow).''