Fire prevention burn offs: EPA admits key part of policy ‘had dropped off somewhere along the way’

Fire prevention burn offs: EPA admits key part of policy ‘had dropped off somewhere along the way’

09 December 2015

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Australia– A DRAFT policy that would have banned burn-offs in Adelaide’s most bushfire-prone suburbs will be altered after Burnside Council raised concerns it could lead to disaster.

The Environment Protection Authority’s draft Environment Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016 contains no mention of allowing burning for bushfire prevention.

Burnside and Mitcham councils issue hundreds of burn-off permits each year to landowners and the Country Fire Service in suburbs such as Skye, Mount Osmond, Urrbrae and Belair.

A report to this week’s Burnside Council meeting said the draft policy may cause an “increase of risk where property owners are not be able to remove fuel loads from their property”.

“The draft policy does not provide the city of Burnside, as a metropolitan council, the ability to permit burning in the open, outside the bushfire danger season, for the purpose of reducing the hazard of bushfire as is currently the case with the existing (policy),” the report by city development and safety manager Magnus Heinrich said.

In particular, it said some areas were so steep and inaccessible that “fuel load is unable to be easily removed from land and hence is disposed of in situ”.

Mr Heinrich urged the policy to be amended “to allow the council to continue to issue such permits in order to enable continued effective bushfire hazard management in high risk areas”.

EPA strategy and business director Roslyn Agate said it appeared references to the permit system “had dropped off somewhere along the way”.

“The EPA will not endorse any conditions where the risk of bushfire can be heightened,” Ms Agate said.

Mitcham Council chief executive Matt Pears said his council also had “initial concerns surrounding the issuing of burning permits”.

A staff member would attend a public meeting hosted by the EPA in Stirling on Friday to hear more about the policy and to prepare a submission.

Mount Osmond resident Marlene Pitman regularly burns off weeds and fallen debris with permission from Burnside Council.

She said it would be “so difficult as to be impossible” to get rid of rubbish any other way from her very steep 8000sq m property.

“It would mean we’d have more debris hanging around and less ability to keep the grass down,” Ms Pitman said.

The CFS referred questions to the EPA.

Onkaparinga, Tea Tree Gully and Playford councils also issue permits for burn-offs.

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