A gruelling 2019/20 bushfire season placed unprecedented pressure on the NSW Rural Fire Service and supporting agencies, with bushfires raging all over the state.
In the Riverina Zone, it was the Dunns Road bushfire that ravished the region, burning over 330,000 hectares and requiring 1704 individual firefighter shifts and 25,234 hours of work to subdue the blaze.
In what would have been music to the ears of landowners, farmers and residents of towns impacted by the summer fires, the RFS announced that the bushfire danger period would officially be over as of April 1.
What this means for landowners, is that fire permits will not be needed from Wednesday onwards and that the risk of a bushfire taking over a property is very unlikely.
Despite this good news, NSW RFS Operational Manager Bradley Stewart highlighted the responsibilities of landowners in the period immediately following the bushfire period; especially those who intended to use fire.
“Even though a fire permit is no longer a requirement, anyone using fire in the open must still notify their neighbours and the local fire authority 24 hours before burning,” Mr Stewart said.
“Your neighbors may be exposed to the smoke from your burn and may need to make the preparations to avoid any negative impacts.”
Mr Stewart said Tumut and surrounding landowners should contact the Snowy Valleys Council before intending to burn.
“Open burning is prohibited is some urban areas within the Riverina Zone, people should contact their local council to determine whether approval is required in your area,” Mr Stewart said.
Additionally, Mr Stewart offered some common sense advice to local landowners, highlighting the importance of understanding the risk and costs of fire before going ahead with any unnecessary burns.
“Don’t be the fire risk to your community, know your obligations if conducting burns and know the costs if you do the wrong thing, but most importantly, if a fire does get out of hand, make sure you report it immediately to triple zero (000),” Mr Stewart said.
Riverina Highlands Rural Fire Service District Manager Jon Gregory reiterated the sentiment of Mr Stewart, reminding residents that they still had responsibility to let the RFS and their neighbours know of potential burns.
“After April 1, fire permits are not required but people who are burning are required to let us and their neighbors know,” Mr Gregory said,
“It is important landowners are responsible, as unnecessary fires that haven’t been communicated to the RFS are just an inconvenience to our volunteers.
“After the recent fires, people are easily worried and once they see smoke, we get called out, and it’s just not worth our while.”
Mr Gregory also said that fire risks in the Riverina were still prevalent, and that dry conditions still allowed for potential burns to get out of control.
“The fire danger has certainly subsided, but at the moment, the fire danger is in the high range and fires still have that chance of making a run,” Mr Gregory said.
Mr Gregory highlighted a few recent incidents in this region, which saw fires that were lit under permits, burning out of the landowner’s control.
“We have actually had a few incidents at Tumbarumba and Lacmalac, which saw fires run along more than expected,” Mr Gregory said.
“Just be mindful, it’s still dry, it’s still windy and fires will run, so please clear land four metres around the fire and any combustive materials on the property.”
Riverina Highlands District Coordinator Peter Jones said that it was this time of year that landowners would traditionally burn and find trouble.
“Historically at this time of year, we have a lot of people with landowners who burn and have fire escape from what they intended to do,” Mr Jones said.
“That’s happened in the past and we don’t what that to happen again.”
Mr Jones said that with the current Covid-19 crisis, it just wasn’t necessary for the local RFS and volunteers to be visiting properties for unnecessary callouts.
“At the moment, brigades are just responding to jobs and for example, we had five to six calls in the last week that we realistically didn’t need to attend, especially with the coronavirus situation,” Mr Jones said.
The District Coordinator also said it was easier if landowners and residents didn’t follow through with unnecessary burns.
“Our preferred option is for people not to burn unless they absolutely have to,” Mr Jones said.
“If you can wait, leave it until after Easter.”
For landowners and residents wanting to inquire about potential burns, contact RFS Tumut on (02) 69814222 more information.