As a landowner or leaseholder, you are responsible for managing fire risks on your property by ensuring that it is clean and free of any long grass and debris that could pose a fire hazard.
This responsibility covers residential properties, commercial properties, and any vacant land you own within the municipality.
Your Hazard Reduction Checklist
Use the following checklist as a guide to help you prepare your property in the lead up to each fire season:
Cut/mow any long grass so that it is no higher than 100 mm.
Remove any flammable material around your home, including cleaning out gutters.
Clear away dead undergrowth and fallen branches.
Ensure that any firewood is stored well away from your home and outbuildings.
Remove any noxious and environmental weeds from your property.
Ensure that your property is clearly numbered so that it can be easily found by Emergency Services should the need arise.
Trim excess vegetation along driveways and firebreaks, including any overhanging branches, to provide easy access for fire fighting appliances. As a guide, the CFA requires a minimum clearance of four metres wide x four metres high.
If the fuel load on your property is considered a fire risk, you may be issued with a Fire Prevention Notice by Council’s Fire Prevention Officer alerting you to your responsibilities and requesting that you clear away any combustible material on your land.
This Notice is a legal directive under the CFA Act to you as the landowner or occupier of the land to undertake works to reduce the fire hazard within a specified timeframe (not less than 7 days).
Failure to comply may result in an Infringement Notice being issued against you.
If this happens, considerable penalties may apply. Council will engage a private contractor to clean up the land and you will be charged all costs relating to this work, as well as an administration fee and a hefty fine. The amount of the fine is prescribed under Section 41 of the CFA Act 1958 and is equal to 10 penalty units*.
Council’s Fire Prevention Officer or the CFA also has the right to initiate legal proceedings against you as the property owner or occupier, which may result in a fine of up to 120 penalty units* and/or 12 months imprisonment.
* Penalty units carry a financial value and are subject to change from time to time. For the 2016/17 financial year, one penalty unit is equal to $155.46.
Gorse (Ulex europaeus), also called Furze, is a prickly perennial shrub from the Pea family. In Australia, it is classified as a Weed of National Significance on the basis of its invasiveness, potential for rapid spread and negative economic and environmental impacts.
Once established, gorse thickets can also pose a significant fire risk.
On public land within the area covered by the City of Ballarat, responsibility for gorse control is shared between Council, various state government authorities and individual land owners, and depends largely on land ownership, management and/or use.
On private land, individual landholders are responsible for controlling gorse on their properties, including on residential land, vacant land or broad-acre farmland. Failing to do so may result in a Fire Prevention Notice being issued.
For more information, read Council’s brochure, ‘Gorse – Your questions answered’, or the Department of Primary Industries’ brochure, ’Controlling gorse successfully’.
Bush and grassfires can pose a serious threat to life and property. Under the CFA Act (1958) and Council’s Local Law 17, you are required to manage fire hazards on property you own or occupy within the municipality by removing material that could pose a fire risk. This includes fire hazards on broad-acre farmland.
Keeping your property free of fire hazards means reducing the height and proximity of fuel loads, including long grass and weeds, from around farm assets such as buildings, sheds and fences in the lead up to the fire season. It also means removing and controlling noxious and/or weeds such as gorse in fenced-off areas.
‘Grass’ means pasture, natural grasslands and crops. Generally, the dryer and taller the grass, the higher the risk, although some grasses will burn when green. Ideally, grass should be no higher than 10 cm.
Slashing, mowing, grazing, spraying herbicide, undertaking controlled burns (in appropriate weather conditions and subject to obtaining a permit if required) or creating fire breaks (at least 3 metres wide) along fence lines; all of these methods and more can be employed to reduce or manage fire risk on your property.
One spark into long dry grass is all it takes to start a fire, so take particular care when using farm machinery such as mowers, chainsaws, tractors, slashers, excavators or welders on days of high fire danger if within 9 metres of any crops, grass, stubble, undergrowth, weeds or other vegetation. If possible, postpone using this equipment until the fire danger period has passed.
When using equipment, the CFA recommends having on hand either a water-filled knapsack spray pump or fire extinguisher. Both should have a capacity of at least 9 litres and be in good working order.
Electric fencing can also cause fire, especially if next to long grass, so consider turning these off during periods of extreme fire danger.
Haystacks too can be a source of fire. Hay that has been baled when too green and not sufficiently cured can cause a series of biological and chemical reactions within the bales. The heat and flammable gases produced by these reactions can spontaneously ignite. See the CFA’s Fact Sheet, “Preventing Haystack Fires”
On days of Total Fire Ban, some activities such as welding, grinding and soldering (among others) are prohibited without a special permit.
Remember, fire prevention on your farm is your responsibility, so make sure you know and comply with the laws relating to the use of farm machinery and equipment.