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District Manager – Clarence Valley, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Superintendent Stuart Watts. Image: Lynne Mowbray

Start of Bush Fire Danger Period

The Clarence Valley is among 21 Local Government Areas which commenced their Bush Fire Danger Period on 1 September.

District Manager – Clarence Valley, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Superintendent Stuart Watts said that as we head into this year’s fire season, things are looking remarkably different, compared to last year.

“Last year between 1 July and 1 September we dealt with approximately 180 ‘000’ calls compared to 35 this year, over the corresponding period,” Superintendent Watts said.

“Two weekends ago we saw a lot of people lighting up (fires), ahead of what is called the ‘Bush Fire Danger Period’, which unfortunately people mistake as a total fire ban, which is totally incorrect.

“A ‘total fire ban’ is a ban on lighting fires during certain weather events, opposed to a ‘Bush Fire Danger Period’, which is a period of time. The statutory period in the Rural Fires Act goes from the 1 October through to 1 March, the following year.

“Up here in the Clarence Valley we have permanently changed our ‘Bush Fire Danger Period’ to commence on 1 September and go until such times as it’s safe, which may be very much 1 March the following year.

“If we look at previous years, particularly the last two, given the amount of fire activity we had, we had to actually declare August and July as additional ‘Bush Fire Danger Periods’, because of the amount of fire activity that we had.

“But since the beginning of the year we’ve had some good rainfall with some areas still having nice green growth there. There’s a bit of moisture in the creeks still, so that’s helping in our fire management.

“But nonetheless we’re moving into the busy time of year and there are permits requirements now in place. You can get a permit, free of charge, through your local Rural Fire Service (RFS) captain or brigade and there’s a set of conditions on that permit that need to be followed. There’s also a new product that the RFS has initiated and it’s the Burn Notification Process which a landholder needs to advise of one, their permit, to the brigade or secure a permit and advise the fire controllers that they have a permit; and two, advise their neighbours and the fire control centre that they are going to burn.

“(Recently) A lot of the brigades have been involved with preparing areas that hadn’t been burnt last fire season.

“The RFS need to ensure that there is more hazard reduction done; but with hazard reduction there is only a limited opportunity as it’s either too wet or too dry, to do some burning activities,” he said.