EARLY indications are for a hotter and drier than average fire season – and it could begin soon. Much of Victoria has seen below average rainfall in the last ten months, and forecast maximum temperatures are higher than average. The bush is drier now than it normally is. Several landowners have been caught unawares already, resulting in call-outs for the CFA when burn-offs have escaped.
Local CFA personnel are urging residents to take the appropriate precautions when preparing to burn off.
An Ameys Track resident was burning off a very large pile of cut pine logs and branches at around 3.20pm on Monday of last week when the flames, accompanied by embers in the strong wind, ignited a number of roadside pine trees.
The fire was attended by eight CFA appliances and two appliances from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI), with a total of 25 personnel working to extinguish the flames. Due to the height of the trees, extra water pressure was required to reach the flames, necessitating CFA members to lean on the hose to compress it.
The fire was successfully extinguished, but it was not until around 9.30pm that the last fire fighters left the scene.
Foster CFA Captain David Jones said that had adequate preparations been carried out and precautions adhered to, countless hours of manpower would not have been wasted.
“We encourage people to do what they can to minimise the risk of fire, such as burning off in the areas permitted, but they need to take adequate precautions and use common sense in regard to the placement of the piles to be burnt and to take into account the prevailing weather conditions,” he said. He added that if landowners don’t have the resources to keep in control of a burn-off, they should form several smaller piles to make the operation more manageable. Above all, they should remember to check weather conditions.
The CFA recommends that before you give notification of your planned burn, make sure you check and follow local regulations or laws set down by the CFA or your local council.
On Wednesday of last week, CFA units from Toora and Foster were summoned to extinguish a fire in the hill country north of Toora. A passerby had noticed that the fire lit by a contractor, who was clearing a property on the Toora-Gunyah Road at Mt Best, had got away. Whilst he was pulling trees down and burning them, the fire escaped into a pile of truck tyres. The black plume of smoke could be seen for miles around, resulting in widespread alarm and numerous calls to the CFA.
“The black smoke made it look worse than it was,” said Toora CFA captain Ray Argento, who was called to the scene at around quarter to five on Wednesday afternoon, along with a crew from Foster CFA – about a dozen fire fighters in all, in three appliances. They took about half an hour to make the scene safe. The contractor, who was continuing his work in the area, promised to be more vigilant in future.
Mindful of the fast-approaching summer and the heavy fuel load, DEPI, in association with Parks Victoria and CFA, has carried out a number of planned burns in recent weeks when weather conditions have been right.
On Tuesday of last week a small fuel reduction burn was successfully completed in the bush on the northern edge of Foster. Around two and a half hectares of the New Zealand Hill Flora Reserve was burnt, in the Cody Gully area just south of the highway. The aim was to bolster protection of Foster township, and about ten DEPI and PV staff members were involved.
Numerous planned burns have been carried out further east and elsewhere in the state in recent weeks. Some local crews have been dispatched to assist with fuel reduction burns in the western half of the state.
Closer to home, DEPI and PV fire crews recently had a 187 hectare fuel reduction burn at the Yarram rifle range, five kilometres north-east of Yarram.
Additional burning is proposed for Wilsons Promontory National Park in late spring, subject to suitable weather conditions.
Parks Victoria will be employing a similar number of seasonal fire fighters in South Gippsland this year as in previous years – 21, who will be based at Foster, Tidal River and Wonthaggi – in addition to permanent staff. Some have commenced already. The balance will commence in stages during November. As in previous years, DEPI and PV will have two heavy four-wheel-drive fire tankers and 12 small slip-on units based in South Gippsland and available for fire response.
Between working on planned burns, crews have commenced the annual program of checking and opening fire access tracks. Slashing of fuel breaks and Crown blocks will commence when grass starts curing, with the aim of completion of this annual program before the end of December.
Any concerns about specific fuel hazards on public land (or progress on fire prevention works) should be referred to DEPI fire management officer David Gallacher at the Foster DEPI/PV office, tel. 5683 9009.
For information about planned burning in Victoria visit www.depi.vic.gov.au/burns, www.cfa.vic.gov.au, the FireReady application to see planned burns on a map or call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on Freecall 1800 240 667.
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