Lighting Fires

Lighting fires in the open – What you need to know

Our brigade area is situated in one of the highest fire risk areas in NSW. No matter what the time of year, if you plan an outdoor fire other than a cooking fire, there are some things you must always do. During the declared Bushfire Danger Period (fire season) there are additional restrictions and requirements.

All year round, you must notify your neighbours and the RFS at least 24 hours before you light a fire in the open.

During the fire season you must also obtain a permit before you light a fire in the open.

If you plan an agricultural burn, there are restrictions on what days you can start your burn.

On a total fire ban (toban) day, you must not light a fire or undertake any activity that could start a fire. Fines and gaol terms may apply, especially if a fire escapes and causes damage beyond the property it starts on.

The statutory Bushfire Danger Period is from the 1st of October to the 31st of March, although these dates may be varied depending on local conditions.

In our region the dates are set by the Southern Tablelands Bush Fire Management Committee (BFMC), which is made up of representatives from a range of groups, and includes some of our local brigade captains.

Never leave a fire unattended

If a fire escapes your control, call Triple Zero (000) immediately
so that Emergency Services can respond effectively
to minimise potential damage.

Permits

Throughout the fire season you need a permit to light any fire in the open other than a cooking fire. Cooking fires are exempt, except on toban days.

Permits are free. The easiest way to obtain a permit is to contact the captain of your local brigade.
If you are a resident of the Yass River–Nanima area, ring our duty officer number, 6100 6252. One of our trained fire permit officers will work with you on the conditions of your permit, and may also inspect your proposed burn site. Allow time for this process.

Permits are for a specified period of time rather than a single day.

All fire permits are automatically suspended on days when the fire danger rating (FDR) is High or above, or a total fire ban is in place (even if the FDR is below High).

If you reside outside the Yass River–Nanima brigade area and don’t know how to contact your local brigade, Yass Fire Control Centre will be able to help you – phone (02) 6226 3100 on a business day.

Check for a total fire ban

It is your responsibility to check there is no total fire ban in place
before you light a fire. To check, go to:
https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans

Agricultural burns

If you are planning an agricultural burn, both the day you start the fire and the following day must be ‘no rating’ days – see Fire Danger Ratings (FDRs).
The following BOM website gives 4-day FDR forecasts. Use the Southern Ranges line – this is the BOM forecast area that includes our region, Southern Tablelands – to check that the first two days of your planned burn have no FD rating:

http://www.bom.gov.au/nsw/forecasts/fire-danger-ratings.shtml

Notifying your neighbours and the RFS

You need to notify your immediate neighbours – those you share a fence with – directly when you are planning a fire. A post on social media is not sufficient notification for immediate neighbours but is a good heads-up for neighbours further afield.

The easiest way to notify the RFS is via the online form on the RFS website: https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fire-permits/burn-notifications.

Our captain would also appreciate a phone call on 6100 6252 the morning of your fire.

Fire Danger Ratings (FDRs)

Fire danger risk is assessed as moderate, high, extreme or catastrophic – coloured green, yellow, orange and red respectively on the roadside signs. On days of minimal risk, ‘No Rating’ is issued, indicated by the white strip across the bottom of the left side of the sign.

The FDR for a given day indicates the consequences that could be expected if a fire were to start. No matter how severe the fire conditions, a fire needs an ignition point such as lightning, a spark from construction or farming equipment or a cooking fire, or an act of arson, to start.

See the following two RFS web pages for an explanation of what each rating means and the action the RFS recommends you may need to take, depending on the rating:
• https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans (scroll past the map of NSW)
• https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/plan-and-prepare/fire-danger-ratings

Total Fire Ban days (tobans)

Fires are not permitted on toban days, even if you have a permit.

You also not permitted to do anything in the open that may cause a fire, including general purpose hot works (welding, grinding or gas cutting) or other activities that produce a spark or flame.

There are restrictions on the use of pizza ovens and electric and gas barbecues. You are also asked to reconsider activities such as using a tractor or slashing.

For more information on toban day restrictions and possible exemptions, and No Burn days declared by the EPA, go to https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fdr-and-tobans/total-fire-ban-rules

Heavy Penalties

Under the NSW Rural Fires Act 1997, lighting a fire on a toban day attracts an on the spot fine of $2,200. If prosecuted, the person responsible may be fined up to $5,500 and/or sentenced to up to 12 months in gaol.

Penalties for a fire that escapes and damages or destroys life, property or the environment can attract much greater fines and gaol terms, with maximums of $132,000 and/or 14 years’ gaol.

People who sustain losses in an unlawful fire can sue those responsible for the fire for compensation.

Çhecklist

For a handy guide on Standards for Pile Burns see:

https://www.yassriverbfb.org/rescources/Standards-for-Pile-Burning.pdf

For a quick overview of your responsibilities when lighting a fire or undertaking activities that may result in a fire, see

https://yassriverbfb.org/rescources/Lighting-A-Fire-Quick-Facts-A3.pdf

Sally Kaufmann
September 2023

 

Created 30 September 2023