Australia–– MORE than 1000 homeowners in the bushfire prone Adelaide Hills area have been ordered to clear fire hazards on their properties by December 1, or face fines.
The warnings come just a week after fires ripped through parts of lower Eyre Peninsula, destroying homes, holiday cabins, sheds and vehicles.
It also coincides with an adelaidenow survey showing an overwhelming number of people back legislation for compulsory and enforced clean-ups around homes in bushfire-prone areas.
Figures released to the Sunday Mail show Mitcham Council has issued fire hazard reduction notices to 640 property owners, while Adelaide Hills council has delivered 400.
Those who fail to comply face fines of $315 or the payment of costs for council contractors to do the work. Inspections of the properties ordered to clean up will start by December 1, when the fire danger season starts for the Mt Lofty Ranges and Adelaide Metropolitan areas.
Of 1189 people who took the survey, 1112 (93.5 per cent) agreed it was the right action to take. Additionally, 771 people (64.8 per cent) said councils should do the clean-ups and bill the owners.
Authorities are already battling one of the busiest starts to an SA bushfire season in years.
Last Sunday, a bushfire fanned by strong winds destroyed homes, holiday cabins, sheds and vehicles at Sleaford, near Port Lincoln on Eyre Peninsula.
It was among the most destructive bushfires the state has witnessed since a fire that destroyed homes and damaged businesses in Port Lincoln’s south in January, 2009, and the Black Tuesday fires that killed nine people near Port Lincoln in January, 2005.
The Country Fire Service warned last Sunday’s fire was a wake-up call for the state as summer approached.
CFS prevention services manager Leigh Miller said property owners needed to act quickly.
“Each of us need to take responsibility for our own families,” he said.
“That’s the reality of it. What happened last Sunday on Eyre Peninsula could happen in the Adelaide Hills.”
Mr Miller said it was the “fine fuels” that posed the greatest threat and needed to be cleared.
“It’s the grasses and leaf litter that is the big issue,” he said.
“They are the things that are immediately available to a bushfire and that will carry a fire.
“This whole process is about helping people to be able to protect their homes.”
Mr Miller said the Hills posed a significant fire threat in built-up areas and those with fire hazards were risking more than their own welfare and property.
Local Government Association communications director Chris Russell said the clearing of private property was the owner’s responsibility, but councils would take action if necessary.
“The issue of people clearing their land is a frustrating one for many councils and some will be starting to consider applying expiations of $315 or engaging contractors to clear land and sending the bill to owners as they are entitled to do under the Act,” he said.
Mr Russell said councils, state and federal agencies also faced challenges regarding clearing public land but he was confident councils were ensuring their responsibilities are met.
Adelaide Hills Council mayor Bill Spragg said officers were particularly wary of repeat offenders.
“We have a list of people who have been problems for us in the past as far as the condition of their land. People who haven’t cleaned up excess fuel load,” he said.
“We send them notices and our officers go out and follow up on those notices to check that people have done the work that is expected and if they haven’t we’ll issue a formal notice to clean up.
“If the person doesn’t do the work that’s required, council has the power to engage a contractor to do the work, fine the person and also recover the cost.”
The adelaidenow survey also found that most people (64.5 per cent) believe rooftop sprinklers should be mandatory in fire danger zones.