The law goes bush this weekend

AUTHORITIES will be out in force this weekend across Gippsland, targeting deliberate and reckless behaviour that has the potential to cause bushfires.

Vehicles from the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Parks Victoria, Game Victoria and Victoria Police will be on patrol, and will target illegally lit and unattended campfires.

This will be the beginning of a summer campaign on Gippsland’s public land to enforce fire safety regulations and protect the environment.

DEPI acting land and fire manager Rob Stewart said this weekend marked the start of a campaign to co-ordinate resources and intelligence across the region, especially on days of high fire danger, in an attempt to reduce the number of deliberately lit fires.

“We know that a significant number of fires that start every year in Gippsland are lit deliberately or as a result of illegally lit or unattended campfires,” he said.

“These fires can and have had significant impacts on the community and cost millions of dollars in suppression, rehabilitation and recovery.”

Victoria Police Gippsland Arson Prevention Program spokesman Inspector Mick West said work in recent years had resulted in better co-ordination between local fire and emergency agencies and local industry.

“With additional patrols, it is hoped this year the extra effort will result in more eyes and ears on the ground and even better sharing of information,” he said.

“Even with these resources, we can’t be everywhere at once.

“Our message is clear — if you see something or know something, say something.

“Phone Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000.

“Every piece of information is recorded and your piece — no matter how small — might be the missing information we need to progress the investigation and ultimately prosecute the offender.”

Mr Stewart also warned people to check restrictions before lighting campfires, and to take extra care on dry windy days.

“Campfires are not allowed at all in some areas and are prohibited on Total Fire Ban days.

“If the wind is strong enough to carry sparks, don’t light a campfire.

“And never leave one unattended,” he said.

“If there is a purpose built fireplace -—use it.

“Otherwise campfires should be lit in a 30 centimetre trench, with a three metre radius cleared of vegetation and other flammable materials.”

People can report unattended campfires to the DEPI customer service centre on 136 186.