- Wednesday, 19 January 2022 at 12:34 am
With tens of thousands of Victorians taking the opportunity to turn this weekend into a long weekend camping and spending time with friends and family, authorities are urging people to play it safe when it comes to using campfires, barbecues and recreational fires.
Campfires have already caused 270 bushfires on public land this fire season, which is more than half the fires responded to by Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) crews. At least 91 of these unattended campfires sparked bushfires over the Christmas and New Year period.
Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers have also detected more than 180 unattended campfires during patrols at state forest campsites since the start of November, with 29 infringements and 54 warnings issued.
Campers are reminded to be prepared before lighting a campfire, by checking weather conditions and warnings, including Total Fire Bans, on the Vic Emergency website or app. It is also important to bring a bucket and making sure there is enough water to fully extinguish the campfire whenever it can’t be attended.
In state forests, use a purpose-built fireplace or light a campfire in a trench at least 30cm deep. Branches and logs on a campfire must be less than one metre long. Never leave a campfire unattended and use water, not soil, to completely extinguish the campfire before leaving, even for a short while.
All of Victoria, except East Gippsland, is now in Fire Danger Period which means a written permit is required to burn off grass, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation.
Barbeques and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces.
The joint-agency website allows Victorians to enter their home or holiday address to see what fire restrictions apply depending on location and activities including campfires and barbecues.
With the weather warming up, many Victorians will be tempted to fire up the barbeque but it’s important to ‘know the drill before you grill’.
Firefighters attend dozens of fires sparked by barbeques each year, many of which are avoidable but have the potential to cause serious injuries.
On the spot fines of $545 apply to those breaching campfire rules or a maximum penalty of up to $18,174 if the matter is prosecuted in court. The maximum penalty for lighting or maintaining a fire during a Total Fire Ban is $43,617 and/or two years in jail.
Unattended campfires should be reported to 136 186 or call 000 to report a bushfire.
For more information about rules in state forests, including campfires and vehicle use, visit https://www.vic.gov.au/rules-in-state-forests
Quotes attributable to Chris Hardman, Chief Fire Officer, Forest Fire Management Victoria
“Just one spark from an unattended campfire can have devastating impacts and get out of control.
Never leave a campfire unattended, never light one on a Total Fire Ban day and always make sure you have enough water to fully extinguish a campfire before you leave.”
Quotes attributable to Jason Heffernan, Chief Officer, CFA
“With fire restrictions in place across nearly all of Victoria, it’s especially important that Victorians know what the rules are where they live or travel to these last few weeks of the summer holidays.
It’s also very important that Victorians stay informed and check Fire Danger Ratings every day so that they can make good decisions about activities they plan to undertake whether it’s enjoying a barbecue or lighting a campfire.
While CFA and our partner agencies Fire Rescue Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria are prepared to protect Victorians communities this fire season, we look to the community to use common sense and take responsibility for preventing fires.
Expect any escaped or uncontrolled fire you start to be investigated by CFA and Victoria Police.”
Quotes attributable to Kate Gavens, Chief Conservation Regulator
“We want people to enjoy their time in state forests, but to ensure they make campfire safety a priority by knowing what they can and can’t do.
It just takes one ember to cause a destructive bushfire, and this is why there are significant fines for those who leave campfires unattended.”
Quotes attributable to Gavin Freeman, Acting Fire Rescue Victoria Commissioner
“Maintaining a safe barbeque is more important than the snags and prawns you put on it.
When preparing for your long weekend barbeque, spare a few moments to check the connection before turning the gas on.
Spray the hose and regulator connections with soapy water to check there is no gas escaping.
It’s really important that you check your barbeque each and every time you use it. These are very simple checks that will keep your loved ones safe and avoid firefighters crashing your celebrations.”