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Zero tolerance for FDP breaches
Gippsland firefighters in District 10 will adopt a zero tolerance policy for anyone caught breaking restrictions during the Fire Danger Period.
After five significant and avoidable fires in a week caused by slashers, Operations Manager Allan Rankin said landowners needed to be held accountable.
On Saturday, a grass fire broke out at Seaspray near Sale, destroying 2 hectares, and on Friday, a fire started in Airly, north of Sale, which burnt more than 10 hectares and required in excess of 50 firefighters, a fire bombing helicopter, grader and other machinery to put it out. There was also a fire that started at Cobains, North East of Sale, which burnt out 2 hectares.
There were also two fires last Thursday at Newry, near Maffra, which burnt out 20 hectares and Wurruk, near Sale which burnt out 5 hectares. All of these fires were caused by tractors, slashers or ride on mowers that didn’t have the appropriate, and required, fire suppression equipment attached.
Mr Rankin said while CFA understood the importance of cropping, harvesting and grass mowing on rural properties, farmers and landowners needed to be aware of local conditions and their obligations and be extra vigilant.
“All these fires could have been prevented. The conditions across the district mean there’s a strong chance that if a fire starts, it could develop quickly,” he said.
“Getting landowners to comply with the CFA act, which sets out the regulations for using farming equipment during the Fire Danger Period, has been a challenge for us. In partnership with police, we will be adopting a zero tolerance policy with anyone breaching fire restrictions. This also includes illegal burn offs.
“Extinguishers or knapsacks with the required water capacity must be fitted to every tractor or self-propelled piece of farm machinery, and harvesters and other large machinery should also be equipped with a shovel.
“If you haven’t done it already, now is a good time to check that your firefighting equipment is on hand and is in good working order.
“We’re only weeks into this fire season and already our volunteers have been called upon too many times,” he said.
Farmers and rural landowners should:
- Make sure headers, slashers, tractors and ride on mowers are checked and cleaned before starting work and repeat this every hour
- Postpone unnecessary or non-essential work
- Make sure required firefighting equipment is in working order, on hand and fitted to the working farm machinery.
- Remain vigilant: look behind regularly to check for fires and take regular breaks to check for and remove build-up of flammable materials in the machinery.
- Check for straw or grass build up while harvesting, mowing or slashing.
- When carting hay, have a fire-resistant shield behind the exhaust.
- Double check all spark arrestors are in good working order
- Avoid driving motorbikes or other vehicles through long, dry grass.
- Leave the angle grinder in the cupboard on bad days
Farmers, contractors and landholders can find fire safety advice and guidelines online at cfa.vic.gov.au/farming or call 1800 240 667 to request a free copy of CFA’s booklet On the Land.