The latest Seasonal Bushfire Outlook for Victoria, released on 26 November, identified due to significant grass growth, 2020/21 has the potential to be more of a grassfire-dominated season.
It indicates that Victoria is likely to experience a less severe bushfire season this summer compared to last summer – particularly in the east of the state.
The outlook is due to average to above average rainfall during spring, combined with an outlook of above average rainfall for much of Victoria from December to February, particularly across the northern parts and mountain regions, due to the influence of La Niña.
Considering the outlook and current conditions, the fire season has the potential to be a grassfire-dominated season, with shorter-duration fires in grass and dry forests during hotter and windier days.
Potential for above-normal grassfire activity has been flagged for north-east border areas in December, due to the heavy grass and crop fuels prior to harvest.
Some Victorian forests may remain damp enough to experience average to below-average fire activity.
CFA reminds Victorians not to be complacent as an average fire season in this state can still be a bad one.
CFA District 16 Assistant Chief Fire Officer (ACFO) Bernie Fradd said the recent good rains have generated abundant growth in grasslands and crop.
“Once these fully dry out the potential for significant fires in the local area cannot be underestimated,” said ACFO Fradd.
“There is still time to ensure homes and properties are well prepared. Mowing or slashing grasslands and clearing undergrowth can all be still done safely, and I urge residents to use the next few weeks to undertake this important work.
“It is also very important to check any burn-offs that have been done over winter to ensure they are fully extinguished.
“This means raking over the ash and coals to ensure there are no hot spots or smouldering logs or roots, as it is not uncommon for large piles and burn offs to continue burning unnoticed for months only to escape when we have hot, dry and windy conditions later in the year.
“While CFA and our partner agencies Fire Rescue Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria are doing everything we can to prepare for the bushfire season, we look to the community to use common sense and take responsibility for preventing fires.”
ACFO Fradd said people need to be aware that if using fire to clean up around their properties they need to register these on 1800 668 511.
“So far this year, out-of-control burn-offs and unregistered burn-offs have already caused unnecessary callouts to brigades,” ACFO Fradd said.
“You should not burn-off when winds are high or high winds are forecast – not only on the day of your burn but for the days afterwards.
“For information about burn-off restrictions specific to your area, consult your local council.”
ACFO Fradd said once the Fire Danger Period (FDP) comes into effect, CFA has a zero-tolerance approach to any fires caused by negligent behaviour.
“Expect any escaped or uncontrolled fire you start to be investigated by CFA and Victoria Police,” he said.
CFA can issue permits for certain circumstances during the FDP. There are very strict conditions attached to these permits and the liability sits with the permit holder to ensure they always act safely.
During the FDP fires cannot be lit in the open air without a written permit from CFA or a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer. FDPs are based on local conditions and take into account fuel moisture, fuel loads, grassland curing, weather and rainfall.
Fire Danger Period information and restrictions are published at cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/restrictions-during-the-fire-danger-period. Please note the latest restrictions will be published on this page by the Tuesday before they come into force.
Victorians can find out “Can I or Can’t I?” information at cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can or by calling VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226. All burn-offs should be registered with the VicFire Burn-off notification line on 1800 668 511.
Fire Danger Period information:
- A written permit is required to burn off grass, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation during the FDP. This permit may be issued by the CFA District Office however only in exceptional circumstances or late in the FDP for agricultural purposes.
- Lighting a fire in the open without a permit is an offence and can bring a penalty of over $19,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. Barbeques and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit, but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces (to view complete conditions visit cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can
- 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.
- Farmers can find legal guidelines and practical advice at cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/farms – this information is important especially for new farmers, bush block owners or hobby farmers.
- A Total Fire Ban declaration means no fires can be lit for the declared district for that day unless there is a specific exemption or special permit issued. This applies irrespective of the Fire Restriction status for a given municipality. Further details at cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can/