Fire season approaching — are you ready?
WITH A WET September seeing Warrandyte’s verdant gardens bursting with growth, compounded by COVID-19 travel restrictions and the closure of green waste facilities, preparing for the upcoming summer is going to be a challenge.
With council tip facilities remaining closed, Manningham Council is developing a way for residents to dispose of green waste in the lead up to the fire season.
Similar to the response following January’s hailstorm, a council spokesperson said that it is planning to roll out skips at strategic locations around the municipality.
Rachelle Quattrocchi, Director City Services told the Diary “Council will provide a series of garden waste disposal days throughout spring and early summer to assist residents in Manningham’s Bushfire Prone Areas to prepare for the summer fire season.”
She said portable skip bins will be provided across several locations in the Bushfire Prone Area over four weekends so residents can dispose of their garden waste and reduce fire hazard fuel loads on their private properties.
“An Eventbrite booking system will be available for residents to pre-book garden waste disposal across several weekends and locations in Manningham,” she said.
The garden waste disposal days will be held on Saturdays and Sundays on the weekends of November, 21–22, 28 –29, and December 5–6, 12–13.
Booking information and skip locations will be communicated to residents in the coming weeks at www.manningham.vic.gov.au and will be published in the Warrandyte Diary and WD Bulletin.
Residents in North Warrandyte and Green Wedge areas of Nillumbik Shire, while unable to take their green waste to a transfer may be able to take advantage of the recent change in restrictions.
Under Step 2, sole traders such as garden maintenance are allowed to work, if they are working alone and outside. Although Nillumbik Shire transfer stations are currently closed to the public, the sites are open for commercial use, with a valid work permit.
With those on big blocks concerned about their inability to legally remove cleared vegetation, this — at least — may provide a short-term solution to help reduce the risk of bushfire damaging their property.
For those on properties able to burn off, the window of opportunity is closing, with the fire season having already started this time last year.
The Australian Seasonal Bushfire Outlook indicates Victoria will have a “normal” fire season in 2020–21, however possible spring rainfall is likely to have an impact on fire potential in the lead up to and over summer.
The outlook, developed by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre with Bureau of Meteorology and relevant state fire and land managers, was released on August 31.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the outlook was an early indication of what Victoria could expect in the summer season and would be updated in November as predictions firm up.
“The severity of fires in the west half of the state will depend on several factors including the amount, location and timing of rain during spring and over summer,” he said.
Fast-running grassfires and fires in dry forests and woodlands are likely by late spring, depending on fire and weather conditions and dryness in grasslands.
“We have to stay home as much as possible at the moment due to COVID-19 restrictions — why not use the time to clean up your property and make a plan on how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe this summer?” he said.
Across the state, six thousand more burn-offs were registered with the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) between the start of May and the end of August.
CFA Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook said it was great news to see so many Victorians doing the right thing.
“More people are spending more time at home at the moment and if that means they are choosing to spend more time to clean up their properties before the bushfire season, that’s a good thing.”
Acting Chief Officer Cook said welcome rain in many parts of Victoria over the winter months meant a slight delay to the start of the fire season compared to recent years when the fire danger period started in early September in East Gippsland.
“The best way to defend your homes is to prepare before the fire danger period begins.
“This includes cleaning up your gardens, your gutters and removing flammable waste from your yards,” Acting Chief Officer Cook said.
“Many property owners dispose of this waste with a burn-off, but we also recommend people consider alternative methods such as mulching, chipping or taking green waste to a transfer station.”
The recent Australian seasonal bushfire outlook identified recent rains have led to a reduced risk of prolonged fire activity throughout spring, although shorter duration fires in grasslands, drier forests and woodlands are still likely to occur across the state.
Mr Cook reminded Victorians that even an average fire season in the state can be a bad one.
“Residents who want to conduct burn-offs on their private properties need to follow some basic rules such as checking the weather conditions, monitoring the wind, and following local council laws and regulations.
“It is important that as well as registering your burn-offs, you notify your neighbours that they may see smoke as false alarms take CFA firefighters away from real emergencies which can be very frustrating for our crews.”
By registering burn-offs, any reports of smoke or fire will be cross-checked with the burn-off register to avoid unnecessary response of fire services.
Landowners can register their burn-off with ESTA by calling 1800 668 511 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Cook said that when registering a burn-off by phone or email, people would be asked for basic information such as location, date, start and finish times, and what they intend to burn.
“The burn-off line is very easy to use — the operators are friendly, and prompt you by asking the key questions,” he said.
“When conducting burn-offs, remain alert and always have resources on hand to extinguish the fire.
“Check the weather, winds must be light and temperatures low.
“Make sure you have sufficient water on hand at all times and fully extinguish the burn once completed.
“Escaped burn-offs or those not conducted properly will result in you being liable for the consequences.”
Keep your burn-off safe and legal:
Check fire restrictions with your local council and register your burn -off on 1800 668 511.
Check and monitor weather conditions — particularly wind.
To avoid unnecessary calls to emergency services, notify your neighbours beforehand.
Leave a three-metre fire break, free from flammable materials around the burn-off.
Have sufficient equipment and water to stop the fire spreading.
Never leave a burn-off unattended — stay for its entire duration.
If your burn-off gets out of control, call 000 immediately.
“You also need to plan and prepare for your safety so that you, and everyone in your household, know what to do on hot, dry, windy days when fires will start and spread quickly,” said Acting Chief Officer Cook.
For more information about preparing your property, go to cfa.vic.gov.au/prepare
Back in action before bushfire season
By DAVID HOGG
THE FIRE DANGER sign at the north end of the bridge has not worked for almost a year.
We were originally told in November last year that Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) were awaiting a part to repair the sign.
In January, we were advised by EMV that the sign could not be repaired safely at its current location due to safety issues with a new overhead high-voltage cable and that EMV were working with Nillumbik Council to determine a new location for the sign.
In May, we were advised that EMV was working closely with Nillumbik Council, the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Transport to identify the most appropriate location for a new Fire Danger Rating sign, and that once agreement has been reached between all parties, it would be relocated.
With the 2020/21 Fire Season only three to four weeks away we decided to follow up progress on this issue with EMV and Nillumbik Council.
Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp sent us an almost identical response to the one he provided in May, but with a slightly changed first paragraph that reads “EMV is committed to ensuring the Fire Danger Rating sign near the Warrandyte Bridge in North Warrandyte is operational prior to the 2020/21 fire danger period and works to rehabilitate and make the sign operational will commence shortly.”
He then continued to advise that EMV is working closely with Nillumbik Council, the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Transport to identify the most appropriate location for a new Fire Danger Rating sign.
When we queried this further we were advised that works are about to commence on the sign and that it will be repaired and operate again in the same place it is now, until such time as another site can be agreed.
Nillumbik Council has also confirmed that a contractor has been engaged and the sign will be repaired in its current position before the Fire Danger Period commences.