Authorities plea for campers to make sure fires are safe to leave

AFTER detecting 90 unattended and abandoned campfires in Gippsland last month, authorised officers will be on high alert this long weekend as they patrol state forest campgrounds.

With thousands of people expected to fill local campgrounds this long weekend, authorities are urging people to never leave their campfires unattended, or light a fire on total fire ban days.

Fire modelling shows in dry, windy conditions, unattended campfires can become bushfires in a matter of minutes.

Embers can spark and start a fire that spreads quickly in the bush, putting people and the environment at risk.

Campers are also being urged to check weather conditions are safe and familiarise themselves with Victoria’s campfire safety rules.

In state forests, use purpose-built fireplaces if provided; otherwise use a trench greater than 30 centimetres deep. The campfire must not exceed one square metre, and must be clear of flammable material three metres above and on the ground;

Branches and logs on campfires must not exceed one metre in length, and people should stay within 50 metres and in sight of their campfire.

Campfires must be extinguished with water, not soil, as fires can still smoulder under soil.

If a fire is cool to touch, it is safe to leave.

On the spot fines of $496 apply to those breaching campfire rules, or a maximum penalty of up to $16,522 if the matter is prosecuted in court.

The maximum penalty for lighting a fire in the open air on a total fire ban day is $39,652 or two years imprisonment, or both.

For more information and campfire safety rules, visit www.ffm.vic.gov.au.

Campers should also check up to date COVIDSafe information at www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au.