THE Conservation Regulator is stepping up patrols in the Gippsland region, targeting illegal campfires.

Conservation Regulator officers, with Forest Fire Management Victoria, will patrol popular camping and recreation areas across Gippsland.

Officers will look for unsafe campfires to prevent bushfires being started by negligence and penalise people found in breach of campfire safety rules.

They will also remind visitors about campfire safety and encourage people to report suspicious or illegal activities, including unattended campfires, to 136 186.

The following campfire safety rules are always in force on public land:

  1. In State Forests, use a purpose-built fireplace if provided, otherwise use a trench at least 30cm deep.
  2. In National and State Parks, campfires may only be lit in purpose-built fireplaces provided.
  3. Branches and logs on campfires must be less than one metre long.
  4. Never leave a campfire alight or unattended.
  5. Fully extinguish your campfire with water, not soil.
  6. All campfires are banned on Total Fire Ban days.

Days of Total Fire Ban are declared to protect the community and our emergency services, and the Conservation Regulator has zero tolerance for serious breaches.

The maximum penalty for lighting a fire during a Total Fire Ban is $39,652 or two years in jail or both, and on the spot fines of up to $496 can be issued for people breaching other campfire safety rules.

In addition to campfire safely, remember to be COVID-safe. This includes wearing a fitted face mask, practising physical distancing, ensuring proper hand hygiene including the use of hand sanitiser, and observing group size limits.

“All too often we see the consequences of people ignoring campfire safety rules, with approximately 10 per cent of all bushfires caused by campfire negligence,” regulatory operations manager Peter Simpson said.

“It is a serious offence to leave a fire unattended, even for a short while, as most campfires escape when left unattended.

“If you light a campfire, you are legally responsible for ensuring it is safe, does not escape and is completely extinguished before you leave.”