The Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Phil Koperberg today announced he was bringing forward to Sunday 1 August the start of the Bush Fire Danger Period for 46 local government areas in Northern and Eastern NSW.
The Commissioner said the early declarations had become necessary due to the current prolonged dry conditions.
“With the lack of rain over much of the state in recent months the amount of moisture in the soil and fuel has declined significantly, increasing the risk of fire.
“We would need in excess of 100mm of rain and in some areas 180mm to bring us back average conditions.
“By limiting fires in the declared areas to only those with permits we will be better able manage them and prevent major blazes.”
The Commissioner warned property owners that because of the dry weather fires are acting more aggressively than would be expected during the winter months.
“Property owners should not `panic burn’ in the lead up to 1 August just to avoid having to get a permit.
“Many recent fires we have attended were burn-offs that got out of control in windy conditions
“These could well have been prevented with some more caution from landowners.
“Winds and very dry vegetation are turning fires which would usually be of low intensity and easy to control into significant grass and bushfires that in some cases threaten property.
“You can be fined for allowing a burn to escape and we will be assisting police to penalise people who allow fires to threaten life, property and the environment.
“We are in the middle of winter but some of our brigades are being called out far too regularly. The moisture content of fuel is reduced and combustibility increased and property owners must take extreme care,” the Commissioner said.
Firefighters have attended dozens of incidents recently where dry, windy conditions have fanned blazes, including:
· 25/6/04 Bellbrook, Kempsey. A private property burn escaped, burning 300ha and threatening $5m of eucalypt plantation. It took four days to control and the landholder was issued a $550 infringement for not supervising the fire.
· 7/7/04 Wyoming, Gosford. A fire burnt 170ha as it threatened homes and required over 100 firefighters and two aircraft to contain over three days. The cause of the fire is being determined.
· 6/7/04 Pacific Palms, Great Lakes. A private property burn escaped burning 175ha and required more than 50 firefighters to do backburning and property protection over two days.
“Usually, at this time of year, some of these fires would be contained within a few hours. But due to the dry conditions, instead of a few firefighters being required for five hours work, dozens are needed over extended periods.
“Private landowners must do hazard reduction work, but it must be done responsibly. Check the weather forecast and advise fire authorities before lighting up.
“Burning is not the only option – landowners should consider slashing, trittering, mowing and taking vegetation and waste to the tip,” the Commissioner said.
If you do have to burn –
· Ask the RFS for further advice, permits and approvals
· Check weather conditions
· Delay the burn if concerning winds are forecast
· Create proper fire breaks
· Have adequate water resources on hand
· Supervise the fire at all times
· Call triple zero (000) immediately if fire escapes.
Areas that require permits:
Gloucester (15th July declaration)
Kiama/Shellharbour (year round permits)