Fire sea­son be­gins

The Tatura Guardian - - News - By Thomas Moir

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.

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