The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is urging land managers and property owners to carefully consider conditions before burning off on Wednesday, August 15, with winds up to 70kph and temperatures in the mid-20s forecast across the State.
NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said hundreds of firefighters had to respond to dozens of escaped and illegal burns on the weekend when irresponsible landholders lit up in windy conditions.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said there were 48 instances of illegal fire activity reported between 10-12 August, with around half occurring in the Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter and Central Tablelands regions, compared to 38 incidents statewide the previous weekend.
“It is extremely concerning that so many people lit up and carelessly allowed burns to escape, particularly on a weekend where there were prevailing strong winds and conditions that resulted in three Watch and Act fires threatening homes in the Richmond Valley area,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
“Escaped fires pose a very real and potentially deadly threat to the public, especially if that escaped burn takes hold and fire authorities are not notified, which is why it is important that landholders notify their local Fire Control Centre and their neighbours of their intention to burn.
“Given the prevailing dry conditions, it is also vital that landholders only burn off when it is safe to do so, ensure they have proper and functioning firefighting equipment on hand, make sure they follow the rules and obtain a free Fire Permit, even if they have been carrying out burns for years.”
Heavy fines apply for the unsafe use of fire or if a fire escapes - landholders who fail to notify firefighters and neighbours face fines of up to $5500 and/or 12 months jail while escaped fires attract penalties of up to $110,000 and/or five years prison.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said fire investigators would review recent illegal fire and escaped burn incidents to determine if legal action is required
The Bush Fire Danger Period (BFDP) has commenced in the Armidale Regional, Clarence Valley, Glen Innes Severn, Inverell, Kyogle, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha Local Government Areas, meaning landholders must obtain a free Fire Permit before lighting up.
The Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Kempsey and Nambucca LGAs will start the BFDP on Friday, August 17.
In the Manning, the RFS is conducting hazard reduction in Kiwarrak State Forest and at Juhles Mountain in Lansdowne State Forest.
Out of control fires were burning on Tuesday, August 14 at Caparra, north west of Wingham, and Winns Creek Trail, west of Bulahdelah.
“Don’t be the fire risk to your community, know your obligations if conducting burns and know the costs if you do the wrong thing, but most importantly, if a fire does get out of hand, make sure you report it immediately to Triple Zero (000),” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
Information about hazard reduction burning and required notifications is available on the NSW RFS website at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/BFDP.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.