Fire season warning

EMERGENCY service agencies have urged landholders to prepare for the fire season, with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries forecasting a similar season to last year.

Sixty people from various agencies including CFA, DEPI, Parks Victoria, Vic Forests, Victoria Police, SES and local government attended a pre-season briefing at Heyfield’s DEPI headquarters on Thursday night to prepare for the fire season.

CFA Gippsland regional commander Michael Owen said the session was one of 17 held across the state to prepare agencies for the fire season.

Sessions were also held in Warragul, Bairnsdale and Orbost, with the possibility of a session also being held in Traralgon.

Mr Owen said a primary focus of the sessions were education and training around standard operation procedures and changes from last season.

The session included a safety training scenario and roundtable discussion.

“The primary aim is to identify our incident response level two and three personnel,” Mr Owen said.

“Level one is an initial response, the smaller fires which are probably about 98 per cent of all fires.

“Level two are fires which may take six to eight hours, maybe a day and you might have 10 to a dozen crew members.

“Level three are the more complex, larger fires which could be taxing on communities quickly, and you could have 60 to 70 in a team.”

DEPI regional manager fire and land Richard Teychenne said it was equally important landholders also prepared for the fire season.

“It’s interesting, we have already had 12-13 fires in September and some already in October, so it’s actually showing we are going to have a similar fire season to last year,” he said.

“The outlook weather wise is saying we’re going to have similar conditions.

“So it’s really important for us, the agencies to be ready, but I think it’s saying to the community, start getting prepared now.”

Mr Teychenne said it was important landholders started to think about clearing their land and making a fire plan.

“We are finding that a lot of people over the years have used this, and it has actually helped them a lot in making decisions of what they will do during a fire event itself,” he said.

“We live in one of the most fire prone areas in the world, so thinking about coming into spring, starting to move into summer that people are actually getting ready for fire season.”

Mr Teychenne said eight fires this season had been started by “the hand of man”, and urged landholders to seek advice about burning off.

“What we’ve found with the fires we’ve had, eight of those fires have started by the hand of man, so people actually trying to do control burn offs on private property, they’ve got away and they’ve moved into state forests,” he said.

“It’s just showing the conditions already, it’s dry out there, so we have to say to people to be very, very careful what you are doing right now because there will be a time, probably coming up in December, there won’t be any more burning off.

“It’s important people prepare, just don’t go and light a match and do some burning off.

“You’ve got to think about the weather.

“The weather is not just about today, it’s actually what’s going to happen over the next few days, what could actually happen to the burn you’re doing.

“In fact, call the CFA at your local brigade level, or call a DEPI office, we’re here to help.

“We’ve got information to help people in how they prepare for doing their own burns on private property, and we’d be happy to go out there and provide further advice on site if required.”