Wardell Rural Fire Service volunteer Karl Hearn instructs team member James Currie on lighting a fire for a back-burning operation at Wardell recently.
Wardell Rural Fire Service volunteer Karl Hearn instructs team member James Currie on lighting a fire for a back-burning operation at Wardell recently. DOUG EATON

Burn-offs frustrate rural firies

FRUSTRATED rural firefighters have condemned the rush by property owners to burn off over the weekend ahead of the official bushfire season, which kicks off later this week.

Firies were run off their feet with more than 20 brigades dispatched across the Far North Coast as dozens flouted protocols and conditions in an apparent panic to burn off before fire permits become mandatory on Wednesday.

Rural Fire Service North Coast duty officer, Inspector Laurence McCoy, said there was absolutely no reason to ‘panic burn’ as permits were free and easily obtained from any local brigade of the RFS or the NSW Fire Brigades.

He added that anyone lighting an open fire, at any time of year, was required by law to notify the RFS anyway.

“People must notify us and all neighbours before lighting any open fire at any time,” he said.

He said that failing to do so put those people at added risk of legal ramifications and/or financial penalties should the fire get away and cause loss to property or life.

“This time of year people always do this,” an exasperated Insp McCoy said.

Strong winds, low humidity and warm weather made conditions potentially dangerous yesterday and on Saturday.

Insp McCoy was considering suspending two RFShazard reduction burns yesterday.

“Our message is simple: if conditions aren’t right, don’t light it,” he said.

“There is this common misunderstanding the fire season means fire bans, but this is not the case.”

About half the call-outsover the weekend were to fires that were under control, but firefighters had no notification of them.

“It really wastes the time of the service and volunteers who are obliged to respond,” he said.

RFS Northern Rivers duty officer, Inspector Boyd Townsend, painted a similar picture, saying firefighters went from midday to midnight on Saturday and were back at it yesterday.

“There are a lot of fires burning out there, but thankfully conditions are not as bad as this time last year,” he said.

With increasingly warmer temperatures of 29 to 30 deg-rees, and strong breezes predicted by Thursday, Insp Townsend recommended people postpone any burn-offs.




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