2018 Fire preparation: your questions answered
The summer fire season is upon us, and there is lots of long grass around the municipality causing residents to ask some good questions about how Council is preparing for the warmer, drier months.
Here we answer some of the more frequently asked questions, and provide some handy links and resources for residents.
We refer to the following documents throughout this news item:
Council’s pre-summer Fire Prevention Slashing program helps improve the safety of residents, pedestrians and commuters. The program includes Council-managed reserves and roads, helps protect the visual amenity of Golden Plains Shire and most importantly, creates a safer municipality.
The Fire Prevention Slashing program is carried out in the lead up to summer by contractors. The program is in addition to the regular township maintenance works carried out by Council staff under Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3 that keep town centres, reserves and streetscapes neat and tidy (refer to Council Policy 6.3) . Our program commences in Spring and is completed by Christmas, typically starting in the drier south of the municipality and proceeding to the north.
The program aims to balance the need for cutting with grass curing so that the area is only cut once, rather than multiple times – this process significantly reduces the cost to Council and the community. We try to hold off as late as possible in the season before slashing, without compromising community safety.
Residents might see long grass that concerns them over Spring – please be reminded that we have set out to slash all Council-managed roadsides and reserves before Christmas and before the dryer parts of summer commence.
Within township areas, roadsides and reserves to be cut are shown in Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3. These are generally cut fence to fence in all places a tractor and slasher can reasonably and safely access.
Outside township areas, roadsides are cut as per the strategic fire breaks shown in the Municipal Fire Management Plan. Some roads with ‘higher strategic fire control value’ are cut fence to fence, however the bulk of roadsides on sealed roads are cut two metres from the road edge. Gravel roadsides are generally not cut unless they have a particular role in fire prevention around townships.
Council’s pre-summer Fire Prevention Slashing program commenced in early October and as usual, will proceed from the south end of the Shire to the north.
Within township areas, where visual attractiveness is important, grass cutting is carried out as per Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3.
If summer rain results in grass growth over summer, additional cutting may be programmed.
Roads and reserves to be cut as part of the pre-summer Fire Prevention Slashing program are shown in the Municipal Fire Management Plan and Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3.
Within township areas, roadsides and reserves are generally cut fence to fence in all places a tractor and slasher can reasonably and safely access.
Outside township areas, roadsides are cut as per the strategic fire breaks shown in the Municipal Fire Management Plan. Some roads with higher strategic fire control value are cut fence to fence, while the bulk of sealed roads get cut for 2 metres from the road edge.
Gravel roads are generally not cut. However, some specific gravel roads are cut as they have a particular role in fire prevention around townships.
Your roadside may not have been cut because it is not one of the roadsides due to be cut or the contractor simply has not reached your area yet.
If you want to know if your road will be cut, you can read Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3 or the strategic fire breaks list and map in the Municipal Fire Management Plan.
The contractor is required to address long grass in all places a tractor and slasher can reasonably and safely access. The patches missed may simply be too rough or difficult to access safely. Small patches of uncut grass look untidy but they do not usually present a major fire hazard.
Contractors engaged by Council to undertake the program are not permitted to operate on Total Fire Ban days. They are required by contract to carry fire extinguishing equipment at all times.
With a limited budget and extensive distance and area to cover, the Council pre-summer fire prevention slashing program aims to balance the need for cutting with grass curing – the aim is to cut once, thereby reducing the cost to Council and the community. This means that we try to hold off as late as possible in the season before getting started, without compromising road and fire safety.
Residents are reminded we aim to complete the slashing program before Christmas. In Spring, the fire hazard of long green grass is not such a concern.
Council is responsible for the management of grass on land we own or manage. We use our own staff as well as contractors to undertake the work required. Township maintenance is carried out as per Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3. Maintenance of road reserves and other Council land outside township areas is carried out under Council’s pre-summer roadside fire prevention slashing program.
It is important to note that Council only slashes Council owned and maintained land in this program – when land requiring slashing is owned by landowners (private or business), Council’s appropriate action is to issue a Fire Prevention Notice – you can learn more about them here. Non-compliance with a FPN can result in a fine in excess of $1,600 being issued.
Other land managers like VicRoads, Victrack and State Government departments have their own pre-summer fire hazard reduction programs on their own land.
Council reserves in townships are cut as per Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3. Some areas within the reserves are cut to a higher frequency depending on the required level of visual amenity, risk to pedestrians and proximity to houses. The level of service delivery is specified in Council’s Township Maintenance Policy 6.3.
Council’s Fire Prevention Notice program will commence in November.
We issued approximately 700 FPNs last fire season, which is less than in previous years. Recipients of an FPN are required to undertake the works outlined on the notice by the due date or risk being fined – non-compliance with the notice will result in a fine in excess of $1,600 being issued.
We have also created a quick video which helps explain the importance of adhering to an FPN if you get one – you can watch it here.
Snakes in the country are a fact of life so please ensure you maintain a safe area around your house and outbuildings. Snakes are attracted to the places we live as they provide shelter and food, such as frogs and mice that are also attracted to our homes. Try to remove attractions for snakes from your property (wood piles, stock feed and hay) and maintain open areas where children play.
There is little we can do about snakes as they are a protected species. However, if you are concerned about long grass on someone else's property, we will inspect it and if the grass poses a fire hazard, we will issue the owner with a Fire Prevention Notice directing them to cut the grass as appropriate.
In Golden Plains Shire, no permit is required to burn off outside the declared Fire Danger Period. In the lead up to summer and before the declared Fire Danger Period, residents are able to burn off piles of vegetation or grass without a permit. Residents should notify the CFA on 1800 668 511 and ensure their burn is safe and won’t impact neighbours. You can also ask your local CFA brigade to help you with your burn off if you are unsure whether your burn off will be safe.
During the declared Fire Danger Period, private residents cannot burn off in Golden Plains Shire. Council will issue permits to local CFA brigades to burn off during the Fire Danger Period. This allows brigades to burn off private land, reserves and roadsides to reduce fuel loads. Council encourages and facilitates this important work by CFA volunteers through rapid turnaround of permit requests and the reopening of fire breaks on roadsides each season.
Landholders should ensure that they have managed fine fuels around their property in the lead up to the Fire Danger Period. Fine fuels include leaves, twigs, bark and grass – any fuel with a diameter smaller than 6mm. Larger fuels such as firewood size timber are not considered a fire hazard ‘per se’ as it is fine fuels that contribute most to fire intensity and spread.