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CFA warns against complacency in south west

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As the state’s south west continues to experience an increased tourist population this holiday period, firefighters are urging travellers and communities not to become complacent around fire.

CFA warns against complacency in south west

The region’s Fire Danger Rating will move to High with some warmer weather expected at the weekend from Friday, 8 January through to Sunday, 10 January.

CFA South West Deputy Chief Officer (DCO) Rohan Luke reminded members of the community to remain vigilant despite recent rain and cooler weather.

“Recent rainfall has led to increased fuel loads and as the warm weather starts to take effect, these grasslands will quickly begin to dry out and pose a high fire risk if one were to ignite,” he said.

“There are still a lot of tourists and school holiday travellers across the south west region and we are reminding them to take extreme care around campfires, barbecues and other fire-related activities.

“People should also be aware of their surroundings, especially as they travel to unfamiliar locations during the summer holiday period.

“Now is not the time to become complacent around fire.”

CFA reminded residents that typical warmer weather and windy conditions can still pose a grave grassfire risk, despite recent cooler conditions associated with La Niña.

DCO Luke said it is everyone’s responsibility to follow campfire safety rules and observe safe barbecue practices to help in preventing potential fire disaster.

“Fire restrictions now apply right across CFA’s South West region 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,” he said.

“The fire must also be smaller than one square metre, lit in a properly-constructed fireplace and three metres clear of any flammable material.

“The fire must be observed at all times until it is fully extinguished.”

Those planning on firing up the barbecue this summer must remember to check the gas connections before igniting.

“To check your barbecue, spray the hose and regulator connections with soapy water before starting it up,” DCO Luke said.

“Bubbles will form if gas is escaping. If you have any doubts about the connections, turn off the gas and replace the connection or contact a licensed gasfitter.”

Campers are urged to obey the following campfire 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

To make sure your barbecue is safe:

  • If a fire occurs, don’t try to extinguish the flames if it is not safe to do so. Call Triple Zero and turn off the gas at the meter or cylinder, but only if you can do so safely.
  • Do not use barbecues in windy conditions as the burners may blow out, risking a gas leak.
  • Check the LP gas cylinder on your barbecue before you turn it on. A cylinder must not be refilled if it hasn’t been tested for more than 10 years or if the cylinder has been damaged.
  • Have your gas cylinder tested and ensure you use a licensed gasfitter.
  • You can exchange LP gas cylinders at a reputable supplier.
  • Check the hose to make sure it has not deteriorated.
  • Check the connections to make sure they are tight and that the O rings are in good condition and have not cracked or split.
  • Use your barbecue in a clear space. Never use it indoors or in a confined area and ensure there is adequate clearance from walls, fences, and other property.
  • Cook with barbecue utensils and wear an apron to protect yourself from hot fat.
  • Remove excess fat from the barbecue after each use to prevent fires.

Visit the CFA website at www.cfa.vic.gov.au for advice on what you can and can’t do during Fire Danger Periods and Total fire Bans.