FIRE restrictions in Wellington Shire have been announced earlier than expected.
The restrictions will begin on Monday, October 16, at 1am, meaning people cannot light fires in the open air without permits, and must comply with certain requirements.
The restrictions will be in place until at least May 1 next year.
Permits can be obtained from the CFA district office, and are subject to stringent conditions.
People who light fires without permits are breaking the law, and could be prosecuted.
The CFA’s District 10 operations manager Allan Rankin said it was unusual for the restrictions to be announced so early.
“Normally the fire danger period starts in north-western Victoria and the Wimmera,” he said.
“This year it’s started in Gippsland — East Gippsland and Wellington shires are the first,” he said.
“In my time with the CFA, I can’t recall a previous time when that’s been the case.
“Recent fire activity across parts of Wellington Shire has highlighted just how dry our forested areas are.”
Mr Rankin said the announcement of the restrictions would allow people to burn off safely, and encourage people to take fire preparation on their properties seriously.
“The recent fires have driven home for everyone to see just how much at risk parts of Gippsland will be this summer,” he said.
“It could be a challenging season — we’ve been encouraging brigades for a number of weeks to start preparation early and connect with the community.
“People need to be aware they can’t light up for burn-offs, and if they do, they might get a visit from Victoria Police.”
To help out with the reduction in fuel, Wellington Shire Council will hold a free green waste disposal weekend on the Melbourne Cup Day long weekend, from Saturday, November 4 until Monday, November 6, at waste facilities in Kilmany, Maffra, Rosedale, Loch Sport, Heyfield, Seaspray, Stratford, and Yarram.
Council will also inspect properties after the long weekend, focusing especially on areas with absent property owners in coastal towns.
Residents should remove ground fuel and prune trees away from homes, particularly around neighbouring homes and fence lines, and should speak to council’s environment planner if they want to remove trees.
Mr Rankin also encouraged people to volunteer with the CFA.
“A number of brigades would welcome interested community members,” he said.
“Anybody who is thinking of volunteering their time, the CFA is a great organisation to consider.”
To volunteer, get in touch with local brigades or phone the District 10 office on 5149 1000.