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Bushfires (including grassfires)

General Bushfire Information

The Fire Danger Period ends for Bass Coast Shire Council on 16 March 2020. For more information, visit the Restrictions During the Fire Danger Period section of the CFA web-page.

Once the Fire Danger Period has been declared, fire restrictions come into force. This means you cannot light a fire in the open air unless you have a permit or comply with certain requirements.

If you don't obtain a permit, you could be breaking the law and may be prosecuted.

Outside of the declared Fire Danger Period all open air burning must be carried out in accordance with Council's Burning Off Guidelines.

For further information see Rural Burning Off Guidelines section below.

Bushfire and grassfires are a part of the landscape. They are more likely and a higher risk during the warmer months. It is impossible to totally avoid them, however, as a community everyone can prepare to reduce the risk and impact of a fire. During this time it is important that everyone complies with the fire restrictions.

Fire awareness and preparedness information is available from many sources including:

Country Fire Authority (CFA)

Forest Fire Management Victoria

Agriculture Victoria

Small Business Victoria

You are encouraged to seek out the information that is appropriate for you.

We recommend you consider the following when preparing for the bushfire season:

  • Learn about the bushfire prone areas
  • Develop a bushfire plan for your assets i.e home, farm, or business
  • Learn about fire prevention and what you need to do
  • Download the VicEmergency App and set your watch zones
  • Listen to Local Weather Forecasts and reports
Preparing Your Property

What you can do

To prepare your property against fire, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the fuels. The CFA webiste has advise on how you can Prepare Your Property and reduce fuels.

Fuel is the material required to maintain a fire burning. Fuels include grass, plants, leaf litter, bark, sticks, twigs and other debris. If allowed to build up, they can increase the available material to burn during a fire.

  • Reduce fine fuel around your dwelling and outbuilding.
    Keep lawn areas around your home well maintained below 300mm in length.

For more information about how you can maintain your property visit the CFA website.

If you own a property in, but live outside of Bass Coast Shire here are some simple steps you can take to protect your property:

  • Regularly visit your property to carry out maintenance to ensure it is prepared.
  • If you are unable to visit your property, consider what options you have to maintain your property.
  • If you engage a contractor, ensure that the work is completed to your satisfaction – requesting before and after photos is good practice.
  • Ask your family, friends, or a neighbour to assist you.
  • Engage a local contractor to undertake maintenance work.

All works should be maintained throughout the declared Fire Danger Period. However, it should be everyone’s responsibility to maintain their property throughout the year.

Protecting your tank water

When bushfires threaten Gippsland, follow these steps to protect your water tank from contamination:

  • Be prepared to take action to divert water from the roof before it gets into the tank by having a plan for how you can go about disconnecting the tanks inflow pipe(s).
  • Consider installing and maintaining a first-flush diversion device. This is available from local hardware and plumbing suppliers.
  • If you are away, have someone organised to implement your tank water diversion plan.
  • Monitor how close the fire is, look for evidence of dust and smoke.
  • Leave the tank isolated as long as there is smoke etc in the air.
  • Wait for rain to wash your roof and flush the collection system.
  • Reconnect pipes or switch off diverter.

Sometimes fires from outside of the region cause smoke to travel into Bass Coast Shire. This may result in tainting of tank water with a smoky and dusty taste. This is caused by the same dust accumulations you see on your car after rain and is a short-term issue. There are no health implications from using this water for general household uses, including drinking.

For more information on diverting your water tank, contact your local plumber or go the Better Health Channel website.

Rural Burning Off Guidelines

Our Burning Off Guidelines aim to protect the amenity of all residents and visitors to Bass Coast.

It is important that rural property owners are aware of the Guidelines. They operate in conjunction with our General Local Laws and were developed after consultation with a number of relevant bodies. They also address the health issues that can arise from these situations, particularly if certain prohibited materials are burned.

What are prohibited materials?

  • Rubber or plastic substances
  • Petroleum oil or waste material containing petroleum oil
  • Paints or receptacles which contain or which contained paints
  • Manufactured chemicals or pressurised cans
  • Food waste
  • Other offensive or noxious substances
Fire Prevention

Fire Prevention on Council Land

Fire agencies, land managers and private property owners implement measures to reduce the likelihood and consequence of bushfire in Bass Coast.

We work to prevent fires starting on land under its management and to reduce the potential for fire to spread from Council's land to adjoining properties, should one start.

The work we undertake to meet responsibilities include:

  • Roadside slashing program to reduce roadside fuels and reduce the likelihood of ignitions caused by hot vehicle parts; and
  • Works in parks and reserves to maintain areas of high public use through slashing and vegetation management.

The Coast and Bushland Fire Prevention Plan 2018-2019 has been updated and developed, which outlines works we undertake to reduce the impact of fire in our Coast and Bushland Reserves.

Fire Hazard Inspections

This program aims to reduce bushfire risk to the community, reduce fire spread and intensity in the event of a bushfire and fulfil relevant legislative obligations.

In accordance with the CFA Act, Council has a duty to take all practicable steps to prevent fires and minimise the danger and spread of fires on any Council land.

For privately owned land, Council carries out annual inspections during the declared Fire Danger Period. Where necessary, Council will issue Fire Prevention Notices (FPN) directing landowners or occupiers to remove or clean up vegetation or other combustible materials.

Where landowners or occupiers fail to comply, Council can carry out the specified works at the cost of the landowner, issue an infringement notice and even prosecute for breaches under the CFA Act. Serious penalties including imprisonment can apply in extreme cases.

Fire reduction works on land owned by State Government and other agencies is responsibility of that department.

For more information, see the next section of this webpage titled Fire Hazard Inspection Program.

Community Engagement & Advocacy

We work with the CFA and public land managers to support the community to better understand bushfire risk. A number of community engagement activities occur each year, including Fire Ready meetings, information sessions and practical planning workshops.

Strategies and Plans

Along with emergency services and government agencies, we help coordinate various strategic plans to guide work in this space including the Municipal Emergency Management Plan, Municipal Fire Management Plan along with risk-specific sub-plans.

The Municipal Fire Management Planning Committee (MFMPC) has developed the Bass Coast Municipal Fire Management Plan. The Plan is the result of continued collaboration by government agencies and land managers from across the municipality who make up the MFMPC.

This includes the CFA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Phillip Island Nature Parks (PINP), Council, VicRoads, and Victoria Police, who are all signatories of the Plan, together with AusNet Services, Westernport Water and South Gippsland Water.

The Plan contains information on bushfire risk, the risk of fire associated with structures and chemicals, and identifies work that takes place across member agencies to reduce these fire risks.

Fire Hazard Inspection Program

We have obligations under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to take all practicable steps to prevent the occurrence of fires and minimise the danger from the spread of fires in Bass Coast Shire.

We conduct a Fire Hazard Inspection Program to manage the risk of fire to the community (including on private land) throughout the Fire Danger Period. The Fire Danger Period ends for Bass Coast Shire Council on 16 March 2020. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) declares the Fire Danger Period to restrict the use of fire in the community which helps prevent fires from starting.

Total Fire Bans are declared by the CFA on days when fires are likely to spread rapidly and become hard to control. During a Total Fire Ban you can't light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or to carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire. Victoria is divided into nine Fire Districts based on different Council boundaries. Bass Coast Shire sits within the Central Fire District . The CFA website outlines details for our district such as if a Total Fire Ban is in force, Fire Danger Ratings map, Total Fire Ban status and Fire Danger Rating scale.

The penalties for lighting fires illegally during the Fire Danger Period and on Total Fire Ban Days include large fines and possible imprisonment. If you would like more information, contact the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

Find out more from the CFA: Can I or Can't I?

In Bass Coast Shire, no burning off or incinerators are allowed in residential areas at any time.

What you can do

The preceding page, 'Preparing Your Property', contains information on what you can do on your property.

What we will do

We send out courtesy information letters to the owners of vacant land and owners of properties, within areas that have been identified as having a risk from bushfire/grassfire

The purpose of these letters is to support land owners by providing information and education regarding property maintenance that reduces the likelihood of fire spreading to adjoining properties. Simple advice is provided in relation to creating a reduced fuel buffer.

Fire Hazard Inspections

If your property is not prepared or maintained for the fire season, your property may be subject to an inspection and you may be issued a Fire Prevention Notice in accordance with the Country Fire Authority Act 1958. All individual owners of your property will be issued a Fire Prevention Notice.

A Fire Prevention Notice will specify fuel reduction works that you are required to undertake and the time frame in which the works must be completed. If you do not follow the directions, each individual owner will be issued a Fire Prevention Infringement Notice. We may also arrange for the fuel reduction works to be completed at your cost.

For more information, please contact the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer during office hours on 1300 226 278.

Forced Fire Hazard Clearing

Properties that do not conform with the directions of a Fire Prevention Notice may also be subject to forced fire hazard clearing. We will send an authorised contractor onto your land to complete the works as outlined on your Fire Prevention Notice. We will bill you as the landowner for the full cost of the necessary works, plus an administration fee. If you do not pay the account, we can take you to court to recover the cost (including interest at a fixed rate).

Refer to section 42 of The Country Fire Authority Act and Local Law 27 Unsightly Land.

Municipal Fire Prevention Officer

The municipality appoints a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer (MFPO) who is responsible for issuing permits to burn during the Fire Danger Period and issues Fire Prevention Notices for hazard removal to private landowners in Bass Coast.

We may enter private lands to remove fire hazards if Fire Prevention Notices are not complied with. A Fire Prevention Notice may be served only if the Fire Prevention Officer forms the opinion that it is necessary to do so to protect life or property from the threat of fire.

Fire Prevention Notices tend to be served on larger blocks of land in or abutting residential areas, and on residential blocks where a higher risk is identified. These notices will ask for a reduction in fire fuel and may ask for breaks in vegetation to be installed, or for fire breaks to be slashed on rural or farming properties.