Escaped burn-off claims family home

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CFA has reminded Victorians to take extreme care to make sure burn-offs are extinguished, after a Merrigum family’s home was extensively damaged when an escaped burn-off spread to the house on Wednesday evening.

 

CFA District 22 Rostered Duty Commander Mark Narayan said firefighters were called to reports of an out-of-control burn-off at a property on Springvale Road, Merrigum, just after 8.30pm yesterday.

While on their way to the fire, crews were told the burn-off had spread to a house on the property. Fortunately, the family of two adults and two children had been able to escape the home.

Ten CFA fire trucks and volunteer firefighters from Merrigum, Cooma, Tatura, Kyabram, Girgarre, Mooroopna and Stanhope fire brigades responded to the incident along with by CFA support vehicles and personnel, with support from Fire Rescue Victoria firefighters from Shepparton to bring the fire under control by about 10pm.

Ambulance Victoria assessed the family members at the scene, before they were offered alternative accommodation with nearby family. A council surveyor will attend today to assess the 140-year-old brick building.

RDO Narayan said occupants had believed a burn-off on the property from the previous day had been fully extinguished but it reignited in yesterday’s gusty conditions as a storm front moved across Victoria.

“It’s a timely reminder that it is crucially important to ensure a burn-off is fully extinguished. This occupant had done the right thing in clearing vegetation on the property and registering the burn-off and was certain the burn-off had been extinguished, but this incident illustrates you can never be too cautious,” he said.

“We know burn-offs can flare up a couple of days after the burn-off, which highlights the importance of making sure your burn-off is fully extinguished and keeping an eye on weather conditions not just for the day of your burn but for the following days. We’d urge anyone who has burnt off in the past few days to double check that it has been fully extinguished.”

Merrigum is located in the Greater Shepparton City Council area, in CFA’s District 22, which comes into Fire Danger period from Monday 6 December. Many other parts of Victoria’s North West, North and West are already in Fire Danger period.

CFA Chief officer Jason Heffernan urged Victorians to take extreme care when burning off.

“We encourage residents to take advantage of the current window of opportunity to clean up their properties before the bushfire season, but as we’ve seen overnight, the effects of an out-of-control fire can be devastating,” he said.

“It is absolutely essential that you have enough water on hand to put out a fire. There isn’t enough time to run back to your house if your fire gets out of control. You should construct a fire break, free of flammable, materials around any burn-off.”

Burning off undergrowth and other vegetation may generally be permitted outside of the Fire Danger Period, but landowners should always check local laws and register their burn-off by calling 1800 668 511.

Property owners have legal obligations when burning off. Failing to comply with local council by-laws and state legislation can lead to a fine.

Chief Officer Heffernan said registering burn-offs at firepermits.vic.gov.au or by calling 1800 668 511 would ensure the burn could be added to the statewide register.

“All calls to Triple Zero about smoke sightings are cross-checked with that register, and firefighters are called out if nothing is listed for that location,” he said.

“False alarm calls to unregistered burn-offs take volunteer firefighters away from workplaces, families and other emergencies.”

If you light a fire without a permit during the Fire Danger Period, you could be charged with breaking the law. Penalties may include a fine up to $19,342 and/or up to 12 months imprisonment.

Keep your burn-off safe and legal:

  • Check fire restrictions with your local council and register your burn at firepermits.vic.gov.au or by calling 1800 668 511
  • Check and monitor weather conditions – particularly wind
  • To avoid unnecessary calls to emergency services, notify your neighbours beforehand
  • Leave a three metre fire break, free from flammable materials around the burn
  • Have sufficient equipment and water to stop the fire spreading
  • Never leave a burn-off unattended – stay for its entire duration
  • If your burn-off gets out of control, call ‘000’ immediately

For more information about burning off, go to cfa.vic.gov.au/burnoff

 

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Submitted by CFA Media