Far South Coast Rural Fire Service offers a timely reminder on behalf of RFS crews who are currently experiencing a spike in the number of incidents... We as a community endured a very long and severe fire season with a lot of the local area burnt and a significant number of people directly and indirectly affected. There is still a lot of understandable anxiety in the community when the sight and smell of smoke returns. As we head into winter there are a lot of people taking advantage of the end of the statutory bushfire danger period is over and using fire as part of their property preparation. It is therefore an opportune time to remind everyone who intends to burn of the legal requirements of using fire as a land management tool. Over the past week there have been several instances where brigades have been called out to assist landowners whose pile burns have escaped and either done damage or came very close. Brigades have also been unnecessarily called out to numerous burns that have not been notified. Unfortunately there have also been several instances where brigades have been called to a fire that wasn’t notified and been subjected to a torrent of verbal abuse by landowners. This isn’t acceptable treatment of the same people who tirelessly defended their communities 3 short months ago Notification of an intent to burn is a legal requirement of a landowner to let their adjoining neighbours know they are burning off and advise the fire control centre. Both require 24 hours’ notice before lighting a pile. Notification helps avoid dragging volunteers away from their homes, families or work for a fire that is under control and didn’t need the attendance of a truck and crew. It also gives your neighbours a chance to get the washing in or close windows or just to be reassured that there is no need for concern. Smoke doesn’t do kids with asthma much good and doesn’t do much for people with colds or the flu. In these times of social distancing it can be as simple as a text message, phone call or a note in the letter box. Nobody has to be exposed to comply but failure to comply can result in penalties of $1100 dependent on the circumstances. Not notifying and causing a brigade response also has the potential to expose volunteers. Land owners who are burning also have an obligation to keep their fire under control and prevent it from spreading. There have been instances in the past where unsupervised burns have ended up burning down sheds, firewood stacks, vehicles and fences, either on the property the fire was lit on or next door. Despite having had some rain recently the Far South Coast is still classed as being in the grip of the drought and the cooler weather sometimes gives us the impression that it is safer than it actually is. If a fire is left unsupervised and ends up burning onto another person’s property fines of $2200 can be applied dependent on the circumstances. If a landowner wants to burn standing native vegetation a Hazard Reduction Certificate is required to be issued which ensures compliance with legislative restrictions on burning regimes. Failure to ensure that all the necessary approvals are in place before burning bush can also result in the landowner being issued with a fine for $2200. The last thing we want to do is hinder people from using fire as a land management tool but we hope to simply remind everyone that it needs to be managed correctly and we need to know what is going on so we can respond to the fires that need our attention and not the ones that don’t.
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