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Campfire negligence puts communities at risk

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Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) and CFA firefighters are on high alert after finding 89 unattended campfires across Victoria through the month of December.

Campfire negligence puts communities at risk

The unattended campfires were found at popular camping areas around Victoria.

FFMVic Chief Fire Officer, Chris Hardman said, “In Victoria, we’ve had far too many bushfires caused by campfires and these actions are placing the community, firefighters and the environment at risk. 

“With hot temperatures and lightning forecast across parts of the state on Thursday (31 December) and Friday (1 January) and higher than average visitation to camping sites, it’s critically important that campfire safety is a priority. 

“We are urging people to exercise significant care and observe the conditions this New Year period. Now is not the time to become complacent. 

“If people see a campfire that is unattended then call 136 186. Only call 000 if they are reporting a bushfire. It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure they follow the campfire safety rules to help prevent a disaster,” Mr Hardman said.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan urged visitors to and residents in regional Victoria to take extreme care. 

“I know Victorians are keen to get out there to explore and enjoy our amazing state, but it’s also one of the most fire prone regions in the world,” he said. 

“Fire restrictions now apply in most of Victoria and it is illegal to light a campfire unless the wind is less than 10km/h, which can be observed when leaves and small twigs are in constant motion. The fire must also be smaller than one square metre, lit in a properly-constructed fireplace, and three metres clear of any flammable material. 

“Someone also needs to remain by the fire at all times until it is fully extinguished.” 

Campers are urged to obey the following campfires regulations, if it’s not a Total Fire Ban day: 

  • Use a purpose-built fireplace where provided, otherwise light your campfire in a trench at least 30cm deep. Ensure the trench is no larger than one square metre in size and the area around the trench is cleared of flammable material up to three metres in all directions, including above the campfire.
  • Branches and logs on your campfire must be less than one metre long – keep your fire just big enough for warmth and cooking.
  • Never leave a campfire alight or unattended.  You must maintain a 50-metre line of sight of the campfire at all times. 
  • An adult must be present at all times when the campfire is alight. 
  • Ensure your campfire is completely extinguished using water, not soil.

Under the Forest Act 1958, on-the-spot fines of $496 can be issued to people breaching campfire safety rules. The maximum penalty for lighting a fire during a Total Fire Ban is $39,652, two years in jail or both.

For more information on camping and campfire safety, go to https://www.ffm.vic.gov.au/permits-and-regulations/fire-restrictions-and-regulations