Burning confusion

Always ensure your water can reach your fire, and taps are turned on and ready. Picture: LUKE ROY

 Firefighters are explaining new burning off laws to Yarra Ranges residents getting it wrong.

The council finalised the Open Air Burning Local Law on 24 July and placed notices in local newspapers on 7 August.

The Yarra Ranges Council website has been updated with fact sheets detailing the legal requirements regarding burning off in the shire’s three areas – urban, bushland and rural.

But Mount Evelyn Fire Brigade community safety co-ordinator Luke Roy said he was surprised and concerned that many residents were doing the wrong thing.

“It’s great to know that people are getting rid of vegetation fuels before what could be a very challenging summer,” he said.

“We just don’t want residents getting in trouble by the local ranger, or having our volunteer firefighters called out unnecessarily.”

Mr Roy said one key addition was that residents were required to register their burn with ESTA on 1800 668 511 – or risk receiving a fine.

“It’s important they know because we want properties tidied up and excess vegetation fuel gone before the fire danger period arrives,” he said.

“Once CFA’s fire restrictions are in force, there is no open air burning for fuel reduction purposes.

“Based on the global events occurring it could be one hot and early fire season.”

Mr Roy said open air burning on Sundays hadn’t been supported in bushland areas in the Yarra Ranges for at least 10 years.

“Yet driving around you can spot plenty of back yards with piles burning, some even last Sunday when there was a severe wind weather warning across most of the state,” he said.

“People really need to know the rules, consider the risks, and consider the community.”

Mr Roy said he’d prefer neighbours talking to each other to change behaviour, rather than phoning council and residents getting fines.

The council’s social and economic development director, Ali Wastie, said the council received 12 requests for rangers to attend burn-offs across the municipality during business hours.

Three of those were complaints regarding burning off in an urban area, where burning off was prohibited.

Ms Wastie said a community safety officer attended the properties and made contact with residents to resolve the issues.

“One of these residents was using a fire pit for personal warmth,” she said.

“The other properties were sent warning letters as an initial response.”

On Sunday 12 August, five calls were made to the council’s after-hours officer regarding burning off.

“Two of these calls required a response from the officer,” she said.

“We aim to work with our residents, through education, conversations and warnings where appropriate, to help build understanding about the Open Air Burning Local Law, rather than rely solely on infringements.”

Residents should visit yarraranges.vic.gov.au/burningoff or call 1300 368 333 with any questions.