News

Out-of-control burn-offs prompt warning for rural residents

By Vanessa Wiltshire

The CFA is urging residents in central and western Victoria to take extreme care when burning off after responding to out-of-control private burn-offs across areas of the state not yet in the fire danger period.

Fire restrictions for the City of Greater Bendigo and Mitchell Shire were announced on Friday, commencing November 11. Fire restrictions commenced for the Shire of Campaspe on November 4.

State Duty Officer Kade Dowie said volunteers had responded to a spate of unregistered fires taking up hundreds of volunteers’ hours unnecessarily.

“We encourage residents in the areas not yet in the fire danger period to take advantage of the window of opportunity to clean up their properties before the bushfire season, but the effects of an out-of-control fire can be devastating,” he said.

“In last week’s hot and windy conditions, we’ve seen quite a few burn-offs flare up a couple of days after the burn-off, which highlights the importance of making sure your burn-off is fully extinguished. We’d urge anyone who has burnt off in the past few days to double check that it has been fully extinguished.”

Much of the north and north-east areas of Victoria already have fire restrictions in place.

“It is vital people do the right thing by checking conditions, complying with local by-laws and registering their burn-offs,” Mr Dowie said.

“A two-minute call is all it takes to register the burn.

“It is absolutely essential that you have enough water on hand to put out a fire. There isn’t enough time to run back to your house if your fire gets out of control. You should construct a fire break, free of flammable, materials around any burn-off.”

Burning off undergrowth and other vegetation may generally be permitted outside of the fire danger period, but landowners should always check local laws and register their burn-off by calling 1800 668 511.

Property owners have legal obligations when burning off. Failing to comply with local council by-laws and state legislation can lead to a fine.

Mr Dowie said registering burn-offs by calling 1800 668 511 would ensure the burn could be added to the statewide register.

“All calls to Triple Zero about smoke sightings are cross-checked with that register, and firefighters are called out if nothing is listed for that location,” he said.

“False alarm calls to unregistered burn-offs take volunteer firefighters away from workplaces, families and other emergencies.”

If you light a fire without a permit during the fire danger period, you could be charged with breaking the law. Penalties may include a fine up to $19,342 and/or up to 12 months’ imprisonment.

Keep your burn-off safe and legal:

  • Check fire restrictions with your local council and register your burn on 1800 668 511
  • Check and monitor weather conditions – particularly wind
  • To avoid unnecessary calls to emergency services, notify your neighbours beforehand
  • Leave a three metre fire break, free from flammable materials around the burn
  • Have sufficient equipment and water to stop the fire spreading
  • Never leave a burn-off unattended – stay for its entire duration
  • If your burn-off gets out of control, call ‘000’ immediately

For more information about burning off, go to cfa.vic.gov.au/burnoff

For more information on what you can and cannot do once fire restrictions begin, visit https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can