Councils demand fire action

SOUTH Gippslanders have been told to reduce fire risk on their properties or pay a hefty fine of $1476.

South Gippsland and Bass Coast shire councils have issued fire prevention notices to landowners with overgrown land or properties littered with fuel for a fire.

Despite recent rain, authorities say only a few days of hot weather will dry grass and bush to the extent it could ignite easily.

South Gippsland council officers issued 900 notices after inspecting 1500 properties across the municipality – a rate on par with most fire seasons.

Municipal fire prevention officer Bruce Gardiner said notices were mostly issued for landowners to reduce fuel loads by slashing grass, stubble or light vegetation.

“Because fire burns uphill very quickly, if you have two to three foot high grass and the fire is vertical, it burns quickly. But if the grass is horizontal, there is the same fuel load but the fire burns much slower and that gives the CFA a greater chance to get there,” he said.

Notices also demanded people relocate fire fuel to reduce risk in the event of a major blaze.

“A fire needs about 200-300m of run-up to burn at full capacity. The fire can then be so hot that it lights fuels ahead of it and if you get a bit of wind behind it, it starts to take off,” Mr Gardiner said.

South Gippsland council issued notices earlier in December and recipients had until December 24 to comply. Council officers will inspect properties again from December 27.

Bass Coast council’s general manager healthy communities David Elder said more than 100 notices were given, up from 70 around the same time as last year.

“Fire prevention notices focus on the removal of fine fuels such as long dry grass, twigs, sticks and fallen branches, and weed species,” he said.

“Each notice is accompanied by an information sheet explaining the implications of non-compliance and the costs passed on if council completes the compulsory works.”

Mr Elder said work has been undertaken on some properties after on-site meetings during November and December without the need to issue a notice.

Mr Elder said notices allow up to 14 days for works to be completed.

In October, Bass Coast conducted a review of residential land and issued more than 600 notices in relation to long grass.

During November and December, a further 355 notices to comply were issued.

While the fire risk now is not great, that would swiftly change with the onset of hot weather, Mr Gardiner said.

“At the moment, we are reasonably fortunate that there is a lot of fuel out there but there is still reasonable moisture content,” he said.

“It only takes four or five days of hot, dry weather and the ground dries out. The moisture content is reasonably shallow and it will dry out fairly quickly.”

While some areas of the shire carried higher fuel load than others, Mr Gardiner said residents who lived in those localities were aware of the risk.



On watch: South Gippsland Shire Council’s assistant municipal fire prevention officer Luke Mullen inspects an overgrown block.

On watch: South Gippsland Shire Council’s assistant municipal fire prevention officer Luke Mullen inspects an overgrown block.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=13135

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