NO fires can be lit in the open across the Mornington Peninsula or in Frankston as from Monday.
The CFA last week declared the Fire Danger Period (FDP) for both municipalities and warned residents to be “fire ready”. French Island has also been included in the fire ban.
During the danger period, fires cannot be lit in the open air without a written permit from the CFA or the municipal fire prevention officer at Mornington Peninsula or Frankston councils.
Anyone lighting a fire in the open without a permit faces fines of $17,000 and/or 12 months in jail.
Barbecues and fires for cooking and warmth do not require a permit, but must be lit in properly constructed fireplaces and not be used in winds exceeding 10km/h.
The danger period was declared after the CFA assessed fuel moisture, fuel loads, grassland curing, weather and rainfall.
A glimpse of what could occur was vividly demonstrated on Tuesday 14 January when a fire that started in the median strip of Mornington Peninsula Freeway at Dromana ignited a thatched-roofed cafe at the historic Heronswood property.
Police believe the fire, which had at least two ignition points, was deliberately lit.
Firefighters were able to prevent the blaze reaching nearby homes.
Police blocked the freeway and all surrounding roads as the blaze spread to an area known by local fireys as Wonga Gully, between the freeway and Point Nepean Rd.
“The CFA looks to the community to do the right thing by their family and neighbours, and follow the fire restrictions in place throughout the FDP,” the CFA’s southern metropolitan operations manager Trevor Owen said.
“Fire restrictions are in place for a reason – to help prevent fires from starting. Preventing fires is something that every member of the community should see as their responsibility.
“Last season Victoria had more than 4000 grass and bushfires, and this summer we can expect similar conditions.”
Mr Owen said Victoria was one of the most fire-prone regions in the world, where just two weeks of hot, dry and windy weather could create dangerous fire conditions.
“While we saw several bushfires last season, grassfires should not be underestimated. They travel faster than you can run and can kill,” he said.
“Living in a grassland area with dried-out – brown or golden-coloured – grass that is more than 10 centimetres high is a significant risk to people, houses and infrastructure.
“It’s not too late to protect your home and property by slashing, mowing, grazing and spraying grass. On larger properties, farms and farmlets, owners can create fuel breaks by grading or ploughing down to bare earth.”
Mr Owen said farmers should also take precautions with haystacks, which could self-ignite in humid conditions.
“Spontaneous combustion is the leading cause of haystack fires in Victoria. Stacks become dangerous when their temperature approaches about 70 degrees and can rapidly reach ignition point,” he said.
“But while preparing your property is a good place to start, it’s just as important to prepare yourself and your family for fire. Before the fire season, sit down and talk to everyone you live with. Have a fire plan in place and, most importantly, practise it.
“It’s up to you to check fire danger ratings every day in summer – these help you know when the conditions are dangerous enough to enact your fire plan. Remember that if you can see smoke, you’re leaving it too late. A fire that is kilometres away could be at your door in minutes.”
For more information about preparing for the fire season, visit cfa.vic.gov.au or call 1800 240 667.
A map showing fire restrictions in Victorian municipalities is at www.cfa.vic.gov.au/warnings-restrictions/can