1. Can I remove native vegetation for fire prevention purposes?
Vegetation may be removed for fire prevention purposes and is generally subject to a Planning Permit. Native vegetation includes trees, shrubs, herbs and grasses. Please check with Council's Planning Department for specific advice or Council's Planning Scheme clause 52.17 Native Vegetation. Under the 10/30 rule, native trees may be removed from within 10 metres of your dwelling and fine fuels (shrubs, grasses but not trees) removed within 30 metres of your dwelling. You cannot remove native vegetation from a roadside without permission and/or a permit from Council.
2. Can I burn in the open air during the Fire Danger Period?
Only if you have obtained a permit from the CFA to burn off in the open during the Fire Danger Period.
3. Do trees pose a fire risk?
Trees pose the greatest risk when they overhang your house or other buildings. Bushfires will not climb into the tree canopy unless there is adequate ground and elevated fuels to assist it. Removing ground fuels such fallen leaves and grasses dramatically reduces fire intensity and fire risk. Reducing the density of elevated fuels like shrubs reduces fire risk and reduces a bushfire's ability to climb into the canopy. The CFA has some excellent resources to help you manage your property for fire. Contact your CFA Regional Office or check out the CFA website for more information.
4. My neighbour is burning off and the smoke annoys me. What can I do?
Burning off whether in the open or an incinerator is regular practice in rural areas. You may be able to speak with your neighbour and ask if they can burn off when your washing is not on the line or when the wind blows away from your property.
5. I've received a Fire Prevention Notice! What does this mean?
Council Municipal Fire Prevention Officers conduct assessments of private property for fire risk prior to the Fire Danger Period each year. Fire Prevention Notices are issued to properties deemed a fire risk to themselves or their neighbours. You need to follow the instructions on the Notice and maintain your property throughout the Fire Danger Period. If you disagree with your Notice, please contact the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer on 5220 7111. Fire Prevention Notice FAQs.
6. What is Council's fire prevention slashing program?
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. The 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.
7. When does Council's Fire Prevention Slashing program commence?
Council’s pre-summer Fire Prevention Slashing program commenced in mid-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.
8. Which roadsides and reserves get cut?
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.
9. Why hasn't my roadside been cut?
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.
10. Why were areas of grass on my roadside missed?
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.
11. Can Council cut grass on bad fire danger days?
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.
12. Why doesn't Council do more slashing?
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.
13. Why aren't roadsides burnt off anymore?
Burning off along roadsides for fuel reduction purposes on municipal roads is carried out under permit by the CFA. Burning of the Municipal Strategic Firebreaks on road reserves is the primary focus of the burning program each year. Other roads are assessed and burnt on a case by case basis. Council issues permits to burn to brigades as a priority and encourages CFA brigades to undertake burning of roadsides. Council relies entirely on the volunteers of local CFA brigades to carry out this important work.
14. Is it Council’s responsibility to clean up the roadsides? I think they are a fire risk.
Cleaning up of roadsides to remove fire risk is often touted as a solution to many community fire hazards. Certainly roadsides with vegetation; either native or introduced will carry fire. With less than 2% of land in of the Shire held in road reserves, it forms only a small percentage of the total land that can be subject to fire. Removal of all fine fuels and trees from roadsides is simply not feasible nor desirable. However, Council slashes along the edge of all sealed roads to reduce the likelihood of fires starting on roadsides. Council's focus is on reducing the fire hazard on private land immediately around resident's assets (your home and outbuildings). This is the most effective way of reducing the hazard of fire in our community by ensuring residents and their homes are adequately prepared for fire.
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 $1,652 fine 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.
15. What about the long grass in the Council reserve near my property?
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.
16. Why doesn't Council allow removal of fallen timber for firewood from road reserves?
Removal of firewood; either fallen or standing timber, from roadsides is not permitted. Removal of firewood sized timber does remove fuel but this size fuel contributes least to fire intensity (radiant heat, flame and ember attack). The major contributor to fire intensity are fine fuels; leaves, twigs and sticks smaller than 5mm (less than the size of your little finger). Generally, people who collect firewood do not want to remove or deal with these fine fuels and these are left behind thereby contributing to an increase in fire intensity.
17. Council needs to remove trees from roadsides so I don't get trapped at my property. The road to my property is my escape route.
Until there is a significant shift in approach from fire authorities across the country, the message will remain the same. Roads are not last minute escape routes. Even if all the trees are removed and fine fuels managed on the roadside, the propensity for people to leave at the last minute will still lead to traffic congestion, collisions, confusion and disorientation possibly with tragic consequences. You should ensure that you leave early as per CFA messaging to allow yourself time to tackle any delays or unexpected events. The message from fire authorities is:
- Prepare - Prepare your family and home in readiness for bushfire. Residents who have a written fire plan stand a better chance of surviving a bushfire event.
- Act - Put your fire plan into action.
- Survive -Protection of life is of paramount importance.
The only way to guarantee your survival from wildfire is not to be there when the fire occurs. The safest refuge for residents caught unexpectedly by fire is in their well prepared home, not on the road in their car or even worse, trying to escape on foot. Check out the CFA website at www.cfa.vic.gov.au or contact the CFA for more advice.
If you have any other fire related questions, please contact Council's Community Safety team at 5220 7111.