WITH the extremely dry conditions encountered over the winter months, Wimmera residents have been urged to prepare for a high-risk fire season.

Fire restrictions will come into force much earlier than last year with restrictions commencing at 1am on October 15 in the northern parts of Hindmarsh and Yarriambiack Shires and ends at 1am on May 1, 2019.

Areas concerned are those part north of the line described by the following: Sanders Road, Netting Fence track, Netting Fence Road easterly to Perkins Road, Pullet West Road, Pullet East Road and Galaquil West Road. Formerly known as the wire netting fence.

For those who still need to conduct burn-offs there is only this week left before the restrictions come into effect, with the lower part of the shires expected to follow suit shortly after.

Preparation

Despite yesterday’s rains and other forecast showers this weekend, the summer months are expected to be much drier than normal, so the CFA is urging people to act now to avoid issues later in the season.

The CFA says it is important to undertake mitigation work, including slashing, grading and general property clean-ups before the fire danger ratings period commences.

Simple choice

Once the Fire Danger Period commences, people cannot light a fire in the open unless they have a permit and notify ESTA.

Failure to comply with the requirements can lead to prosecution.

CFA District 17 Operations Officer, Alfred Mason, said the message is a simple one.

“Once declared for a municipality, open air burning is prohibited unless you have a permit issued by CFA or a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer,” he said.

Zero tolerance

The CFA and Police are once again taking a zero tolerance approach to any unauthorised fires or fires resulting from negligent behaviour subject to police investigation.

“A fire started at any time of the year which damages someone else’s property is a crime,” he said.

“For information about burn-off restrictions specific to your area consult your local council,” Mr  Mason said.

“Even if you have a permit to use fire over the Fire Danger Period, make sure you read the conditions carefully. Failing to follow just one of those conditions may leave a person open to prosecution,” he said.

Neither the Police or CFA will tolerate poor behaviour and will work together to reduce the risk of bushfires.

Penalties

Penalties may include a fine up to $19,342 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment if convicted.

Apart from those deliberately lighting a fire, people are negligent, such as those who weld or use a grinder which causes a fire to catch will be prosecuted.

Alternatives

During the warmer months, the CFA suggests people consider alternative methods.

“Alternatives such as disposing of green waste at a waste transfer stations, mulching or chipping should be considered in an effort to avoid any risks of a fire going out of control,” Mr Mason said.

Action underway

Residents are also urged to ensure their blocks are cleared with the annual fire inspections getting underway from October 15 throughout the shire, commencing in the northern areas.

Restrictions

A written permit is required to burn off grass, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation during the FDP.

This permit may be issued by the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer or the CFA District Office.

“Please check with your municipality’s local laws in the first instance and always register a burn,” Mr Mason said.

Barbeques and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit, but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces

The use of an incinerator, chainsaw/lawn mower, welding/grinding equipment and vehicles that come in contact with vegetation and machinery with an internal combustion/heat engine are permitted provided conditions are followed.

Practical advice ia available at cfa.vic.gov.au/farming, especially for new farmers, bush block owners or hobby farmers.

Information

Emergency information  is available from a number of sources including the VicEmergency app, emergency.vic.gov.au, tuning in to ABC radio or other emergency broadcasters including commercial and community radio stations or Sky TV, or phoning the VicEmergency hotline on 1800 226 226 and following VicEmergency on Facebook and Twitter.

All burn-offs should be registered with the VicFire Burn-off notification line on 1800 668 511.