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Planned burns, vegetation clearing and crewing increases
On Tuesday 6 October 2015, we witnessed around 150 grass and scrub fires across much of Victoria. Many of these were escapes from private property burnoffs. You will also be aware that much of Victoria is suffering from three years of below-average rainfall. This, coupled with recent dry, warm and windy conditions, has resulted in an extremely rapid drying cycle in forest and grasslands.
It is of utmost importance that heightened caution must be considered in any and all planned burns authorised, conducted and led by CFA.
Until further notice, and as an interim measure, all CFA planned burns in forest or scrub fuels must be referred to the relevant Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) for approval. The ACO will discuss the potential risks, consequences and perceptions of the proposed burn with the State Agency Commander and/or the Chief Officer. This applies to all burns in forest, scrub or heavy fuels that have been planned and are the responsibility of CFA.
Planned burning is a bushfire risk mitigation that has been and will continue to be utilised successfully to make our communities safer. I note the announcement on 8 October of an investigation into the DELWP-initiated planned burn near Lancefield that escaped containment lines. CFA welcomes the investigation, because it's imperative that the outcomes and lessons are shared among all agencies. I also unreservedly thank all CFA and DELWP personnel that worked hard to contain the fires and/or support operations.
District Operations Managers in many parts of the state have projected an earlier-than-normal introduction to the Fire Danger Period. Subsequently, the declaration of the Fire Danger Period will commence for Hindmarsh, Yarriambiack, Horsham, Gannawarra, Mildura, Buloke and Swan Hill Councils from 19 October. Operations Managers and Rostered Duty Officers will be alert to discussing and providing information with respect to the potential declaration of Total Fire Bans should weather and fire risk conditions dictate. This includes outside the Fire Danger Period.
CFA and our agency partners continue to examine resourcing options and confirm that preparedness arrangements are both in place and sustainable.
I draw your attention to a new online tool that makes it easier for people to check whether they can clear vegetation including trees from around their property without a permit. The online tool explains the planning exemptions – known as the ‘10/30’ and ‘10/50’ rules, introduced in 2011 to reduce red tape for residents wanting to clear up ahead of the fire season. The message is supported by a two-minute video 'Clear up or clear out' released on CFA’s Facebook page yesterday. The online tool is accessible here. I encourage you to share these links and information more widely.
Increase in crewing – South Morang and Warrnambool
From 0800hrs Sunday 1 November 2015, under the 10/14 roster arrangement, South Morang Fire Station will transition to the minimum staffing profile of:
• 1 x Station Officer
• 1 x Leading Firefighter
• 2 x Firefighters
The commencement of career staff and subsequent transition to 10/14 operations is an important milestone which has only come about following extensive planning and preparatory work from many.
I’m also pleased to announce, following the required consultation, on Friday 16 October the following additional positions at Warrnambool Fire Station will be advertised to support the crewing of the aerial appliance.
• 4x Station Officer
• 1x Station Officer Reliever
• 4x Leading Firefighter
• 1x Leading Firefighter Reliever
• 4x Firefighter
• 1x Firefighter Reliever