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Joint Media Release
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Greg Hunt MP
Federal Member for Wannon
David Hawker MP

28 February 2005

Country Fire Authority and Bureau of Meteorology work together to improve fire warnings around Casterton

Greg Hunt, Parliamentary Secretary with ministerial responsibility for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and David Hawker, Federal Member for Wannon today announced that a new state-of-the-art Automatic Weather Station (AWS) at Casterton in Western Victoria will provide half hourly reports in support of improved fire services during the fire season.

"For more than a decade, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) has operated a network of Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) in western Victoria to monitor weather conditions that may affect fire fighting operations, such as summer-time wind changes," Mr Hunt said.

"The CFA has now decided that it would be of mutual benefit to have the Australian Bureau of Meteorology own and operate this network as part of the Bureau's national Automatic Weather Station network of over 540 stations nationwide."

The CFA has been operating this AWS until now. The new state-of-the-art AWS has been installed on the same site.

David Hawker said an AWS at Casterton was first installed in the late 1980s following serious wildfires that occurred in Victoria in 1977, 1983 and 1985.

"This new AWS will provide accurate readings of temperature, humidity and wind as well as rainfall every hour 365 days a year. During the fire season, it will report to the Bureau every half hour," Mr Hawker said.

"Should there be a significant change in the weather, for example a wind change or sudden temperature change, then this will be immediately reported to the Bureau. These reports will also be forwarded to the CFA and the Fire Management Branch of the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) every 10 minutes during hazardous conditions, ensuring that the fire authorities have the very latest information available.

"This new facility, along with other upgrades in the network, will help the Bureau, the CFA and DSE to closely monitor the weather and will contribute towards safer and more effective fire fighting, benefiting farmers, crop dusters and the local community in general," Mr Hawker said.

The CFA has provided funding for replacement and upgrade of several AWSs to the Bureau standard and the Casterton AWS is the second to be upgraded in the old CFA network. Data from the Casterton AWS is available at: http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDV65119.shtml

Media Contacts:
Fiona Murphy 0423 577 045 (Mr Hunt's office)
Jane Templeton (03) 5572 1100 (Mr Hawker's office)

Commonwealth of Australia