LOCAL fire brigades have attended several call-outs in recent weeks, prompting a stern message from Foster CFA brigade captain David Jones.
“Ignorance is no excuse. The public should be aware that we are in a Fire Danger Period and fire lighting restrictions are in place. Too many people are apparently unaware that just because a Total Fire Ban has not been declared they are not automatically allowed to light a fire to burn off rubbish.”
Burning off grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation is generally permitted outside the Fire Danger Period. Once the Fire Danger Period has been declared – as it was across South Gippsland Shire on January 7 – fire restrictions come into force. This means you cannot light a fire in the open air unless you have a permit or comply with certain requirements.
Burning off during the Fire Danger Period is permitted under the following conditions:
- You have a written permit issued by a Fire Prevention Officer of a public authority, the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer or by the CFA District office;
- You comply with the conditions of that permit;
- A person is in attendance at all times while the fire is alight and has the capacity and means to extinguish the fire;
- The fire is completely extinguished before the person leaves.
If you have been issued a burn-off permit by the CFA or a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer, you need to give the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) prior notification by phoning 1800 668 511. It is important to notify the ESTA of your burn-off, otherwise brigades might be called out unnecessarily.
This is happening all too often, according to the Foster CFA captain.
“The community needs to understand that once fire restrictions are in place any fires are reported and the brigade has a duty of care to investigate. This can mean dragging volunteers away from workplace or family activities,” said David Jones.
He said that the Foster fire brigade and other brigades from the South Gippsland group have been called out to several illegal burn-offs since fire restrictions came into force. In some cases the burn-offs got away, in other cases someone was burning off and a passerby or neighbour who knew the Fire Danger Period was in place noticed the smoke and became alarmed.
Most recently several South Gippsland brigades were called to a fire at Lynes Road, off Boys Road, Fish Creek, last Thursday. Fish Creek CFA got the call at 11.30am. Foster, Yanakie and Meeniyan brigades were soon on their way, too, though they were turned back before they reached the fire, an illegal burn-off that got away. It was quickly extinguished. Police attended the scene.
A police spokesman said that stiff penalties apply to people caught lighting fires in the open without a permit during the Fire Danger Period.
A salient reminder of the importance of observing fire restrictions during the Fire Danger Period is the massive fire (72000ha at last count) still burning across Gippsland weeks after it started on a rural property in Aberfeldy on January 17. As a consequence of this fire, which has led to the death of a man, caused huge property and stock losses and run up a massive bill in fire fighting resources, detectives have charged a 75-year-old-man with five offences including recklessly causing a bushfire and causing a fire to be lit without written authority in a fire protected area.
Want to know more? The CFA website at cfa.vic.gov.au is the place to go to download an application form for a permit or for further information. You can also contact your local CFA District headquarters and ask for a permit application form to be mailed to you. A list of contact numbers for CFA District headquarters is available on the website, or you can request one by phoning (03) 9262 8444.
For bushfire information or to find out about planned burns in your area call the Victorian Bushfire Information Line on 1800 240 667 or via National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.