WITH tens of thousands of Victorians taking the opportunity to turn this weekend into a long weekend camping and spending time with friends and family, authorities are urging people to play it safe when it comes to using campfires, barbecues and recreational fires.
Campfires have already caused 270 bushfires on public land this fire season, which is more than half the fires responded to by Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) crews. At least 91 of these unattended campfires sparked bushfires over the Christmas and New Year period.
Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers have also detected more than 180 unattended campfires during patrols at state forest campsites since the start of November, with 29 infringements and 54 warnings issued.
Campers are reminded to be prepared before lighting a campfire, by checking weather conditions and warnings, including Total Fire Bans, on the Vic Emergency website or app. It is also important to bring a bucket and making sure there is enough water to fully extinguish the campfire whenever it can’t be attended.
In state forests, use a purpose-built fireplace or light a campfire in a trench at least 30cm deep. Branches and logs on a campfire must be less than one metre long. Never leave a campfire unattended and use water, not soil, to completely extinguish the campfire before leaving, even for a short while.
All of Victoria, except East Gippsland, is now in Fire Danger Period which means a written permit is required to burn off grass, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation.
Barbecues and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces.
Victorians can access a handy ‘Can or Can’t I?’ guide to activities and restrictions on CFA’s website at cfa.vic.gov.au/can, by calling the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226 or visiting the Fire Permits Victoria website at firepermits.vic.gov.au.
The joint-agency website firepermits.vic.gov.au allows Victorians to enter their home or holiday address to see what fire restrictions apply depending on location and activities including campfires and barbecues.
With the weather warming up, many Victorians will be tempted to fire up the barbeque but it’s important to ‘know the drill before you grill’.
Firefighters attend dozens of fires sparked by barbeques each year, many of which are avoidable but have the potential to cause serious injuries.
On the spot fines of $545 apply to those breaching campfire rules or a maximum penalty of up to $18,174 if the matter is prosecuted in court. The maximum penalty for lighting or maintaining a fire during a Total Fire Ban is $43,617 and/or two years in jail.
Unattended campfires should be reported to 136 186 or call 000 to report a bushfire.
For more information about rules in state forests, including campfires and vehicle use, visit vic.gov.au/rules-in-state-forests.