Fire season begins
What is being touted as a treacherous fire season, which could last more than six months for the broader Shepparton region, started yesterday.
It marks the region’s earliest start to the fire danger period in more than 20 years.
Greater Shepparton City Council is asking landowners to take immediate steps to deal with any potential fire risks.
The CFA said the fire danger period started at 1 am Monday, and meant fires could not be lit in the open.
On its website, the CFA has the season ending on May 1.
The CFA said yesterday’s start date was the earliest beginning to the fire danger period in the municipalities in District 22 since 1995.
CFA District 22 operations manager Tony Owen said low winter rainfall across the north- east meant the grass and bush were dry.
‘‘Potential is further increased by Bureau of Meteorology forecasts that the next three months will be drier and warmer than average,’’ he said.
‘‘Any rainfall we do experience in spring will produce growth, which could very easily become a high fuel load throughout the summer season if not properly managed.
‘‘Reducing fuel loads will ensure that if a fire does break out, it has less chance of taking hold or spreading.’’
Mr Owen said there was still a small window of opportunity for people to clean up their property if they had not already done so.
In August, Shepparton’s CFA flagged the likelihood of a long and dangerous fire season that could start early, which necessitated preparations be fasttracked.
The authority then began calling on landowners to begin managing properties.
‘‘Landowners should take immediate steps to reduce the risk of fire on their property and ensure it is well maintained throughout the season,’’ Greater Shepparton City Council said last week.
‘‘Once the fire danger period has been declared you cannot light a fire in the open air without a permit.’’
Council’s corporate services director Chris Teitzel said it was important landowners dealt with any fire risks as soon as possible.
‘‘Potential fire hazards are a danger not only to the landowner’s property but also to their neighbours and their property, to livestock, crops and pets,’’ he said.
‘‘We are entering another long, dry summer and the time to act is now.
‘‘Vacant residential land should have fine fuel loads reduced by slashing and mowing grass, cleaning up leaves and twigs and removing any rubbish.
‘‘Rural land should have sufficient fire breaks and all firefighting equipment should be serviced and ready to go.’’
Mr Teitzel thanked landowners who had already completed works.
‘‘Please continue to maintain your land to protect everyone in the community from potential fire hazards,’’ he said.
In August, Mr Owen feared the looming fire period could stretch longer than 25 weeks.
‘‘If trends continue, it could be three to six weeks earlier than anticipated,’’ he said at the time.