CFA declares fire danger period

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Fire scene: A fire alongside Bayview Rd, McCrae, in 2009 graphically illustrates the dangers during a long, hot summer. Picture: Yanni

THE Fire Danger Period started on Monday across Victoria’s southeast including the Mornington Peninsula and Frankston regions, and French Island in Western Port.

The Country Fire Authority’s Trevor Owen said it would be introduced across all municipalities in the CFA’s South East Region because of current conditions.

FDPs are based on local conditions and take into account fuel moisture, fuel loads, grassland curing, weather and rainfall.

Mr Owen said vegetation was already very dry across the southeast and early indicators were pointing to “a long and challenging fire season ahead”.

The declaration in the southeast follows the Bureau of Meteorology’s climate outlook that states it will be drier than normal in eastern Australia as well as in the north and centre.

“The summer temperature outlooks indicate a warmer than normal season for both days and nights. Climate influences include El Nino-like conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean.”

Meanwhile, weather authorities have stated that the first 10 months of 2014 have been the hottest since record-keeping began more than 130 years ago.

Mr Owen said it was “not too late to clean up your property but the window for burning off has closed”.

“Residents should take up green waste collection services offered by councils and shires when preparing their properties through clearing, mowing or slashing.”

During the Fire Danger Period, all fires in the open air are banned without a written permit, along with most activities with the potential to generate sparks.

Permits can be obtained from the CFA or Municipal Fire Prevention Officer at Mornington Peninsula Shire or Frankston Council.

“The CFA will be taking a zero tolerance approach to any fires resulting from people flouting the laws,” Mr Owen said. “Expect that any fire you start to be fully investigated by police.”

Jude Kennedy, the CFA’s manager of community safety in the southeast, said people should “use common sense and take responsibility for preventing fires”.

“If you have a fire permit, make sure you read the conditions carefully. Failing to follow just one of those conditions can still leave you open to prosecution,” he said.

Mr Kennedy said residents could find information about what is and isn’t permitted during the Fire Danger Period by visiting cfa.vic.gov.au or calling 1800 240 667.

The restrictions

DURING the Fire Danger Period:

- A written permit is required to burn grass, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation. A permit may be issued by the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer or CFA district office. Check with your municipality in the first instance.

- Lighting a fire in the open without a permit is an offence and can bring a penalty of more than $17,000 and/or 12 months’ jail. Barbecues and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit, but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces.

- Use of incinerators, chainsaw, lawn mowers, welding and grinding equipment, and vehicles that come in contact with vegetation and machinery with an internal combustion or heat engine is permitted provided conditions are followed.
- Farmers can find legal guidelines and practical advice at cfa.vic.gov.au/farming – important especially for new farmers, bush block owners or hobby farmers.

- A Total Fire Ban declaration means no fires can be lit for the declared district for that day unless there is a specific exemption or special permit issued. This applies irrespective of the fire restriction status for a given municipality. Further details at cfa.vic.gov.au/can

First published in the Frankston Times

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