Summer in the Mid West is hot, dry and unforgiving at the best of times — and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services says planning ahead is the key to keeping safe this bushfire season. Bushfire season runs for the duration of summer, from the start of December until the end of February, but began a month early this year, said DFES Mid West and Gascoyne district officer Mark Feast. He said harvest season was a cause for concern, due to the dry nature of the landscape and the use of farming equipment. “The fire season has actually started a bit earlier this year, so that is something to be conscious of — lightning, those 40 degree days and strong winds are all good to watch out for,” Mr Feast said. Mr Feast encouraged residents to ready themselves by cleaning up their property, putting in fire breaks and establishing a clear fire plan. A bushfire plan entails having prior discussions about when you will leave, where you will go and how you will get there. “A bushfire can block your escape escape in 15 minutes, which is the same time it would take you to make your bushfire plan so make sure you plan ahead,” Mr Feast said. Mr Feast said “preparing it now is essential, because if you leave it too late making those decisions when the heat is on is difficult and dangerous”. Last season, the Mid West and Gascoyne region saw 184 fires which tore through more than 122,000ha of land. According to DFES, the top three causes were weather conditions — predominantly lightning — suspicious or deliberately lit blazes and undetermined causes DFES launched its annual bushfire safety campaign last week, which highlights how easy it is to make a plan which can save your life. More than 93 per cent of WA is bushfire-prone, but research by DFES, after last bushfire season, found more than 40 per cent of respondents did not think they needed a plan because they thought they lived in a low-risk suburb. The research indicated a further 27 per cent of respondents intended to create a bushfire plan using the DFES app, but still hadn’t got around to it. Since early October, there have been 376 large bushfires that have burned more than 4.2 million hectares across the State, while 11 emergency warnings have been issued for blazes that threatened lives and homes. Last week’s devastating Wanneroo bushfire destroyed 18 homes and burnt through more than 1820ha. With an early start to the bushfire season, the Cook Government and fire authorities recently announced the early activation of the aerial fleet to support firefighters. The My Bushfire Plan app and website helps users make the critical choice of leaving early or staying to defend and has important prompts including what to do with pets, what is needed to evacuate and ensuring everyone in the household knows the plan and their role.