A map of Australia displaying the fire seasons for each area.

A map of Australia displaying the fire seasons for each area.

The months of a fire season

Australian fire seasons occur at different times of the year in different parts of the country.

  • 30 April 2008 | Updated 14 October 2011

In Australia, serious fires can occur somewhere, in any month of the year.

The fire season in northern Australia is in the dry winter months from June to October.

As the sun moves south from its position at the winter solstice to directly over the tropic of Capricorn, the area of Australia experiencing a fire season also moves south. 

The fire season occurs latest in the south-west of Western Australia, the southern coast of South Australia and Tasmania.

The fire season occurs latest in the south-west of Western Australia, the southern coast of South Australia and Tasmania, during January to March.

Bad fire seasons

The normal fire season for a region is a three or four month period when serious fires are likely to occur but in exceptional years serious fires may also occur in the month or two either side of the normal fire season.

2002-2003 is an example of a particularly long and bad fire season. By September of 2002, the fire season was well underway in southern Queensland and the north coast of New South Wales.

A map of Australia displaying the fire seasons for each area.
Bushfire season across Australia. Click for high resolution image.

The below-average winter rainfall over most of south-eastern Australia in 2002 meant that forest fuels were abnormally dry during the Spring and that serious fires were more likely to break out earlier than normal.

As the dry continued into severe drought, pastoral areas and other grasslands in south-eastern and south-western Australia became eaten out and generally carried insufficient fuel to support a serious wildfire, even under extreme weather.

However, forested areas became very dry and natural barriers like moist swamps and shallow lakes dried out.

This provided the potential for extensive forest fires, which subsequently took place in south-eastern Australia during the 2002-2003 summer under extreme weather conditions.

Learn more about our bushfire research in Bushfires

Luke RH, McArthur AG. 1978. Bushfires in Australia. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.