Grassfire warning

Tara Murray

Hume and Whittlesea residents are being urged to be prepared for a potential grassfire-dominated fire season.

The latest seasonal bushfire outlook for Victoria indicates the state is likely to experience a less severe bushfire season this summer compared to last summer. However significant grass growth poses a higher risk of grassfires.

CFA District 14 Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer (A/ACFO) Paul Elso said average to above average winter rainfall across District 14, combined with sunny spring days and periodic rain events, had provided perfect conditions for prolific grass growth.

He said with both Hume and Whittlesea on the urban fringe and surrounded by grassland, it’s important residents clean up their properties and are prepared in case of a fire.

There have been a number of fires in both areas in recent years, including one in Bundoora late last year when bushfires were blazing across the country.

“It’s always hard to predict, but we’re looking like there will be more of a focus on grass fires,” Mr Elso said.

“We’re looking at there being more fires in abandoned growth and grasslands rather than forest fires.”

Mr Elso said it was key for residents to make sure their properties were fire ready before fire season.

That includes cutting and mowing grass, moving timber away from properties, cleaning gutters and if on rural properties making sure equipment is tested and working.

“While CFA and our partner agencies Fire Rescue Victoria and Forest Fire Management Victoria are doing everything we can to prepare for the bushfire season, we look to the

community to use common sense and take responsibility for preventing fires,” he said.

Mr Elso said a huge number of the fires that they attend are caused by human activity, such as slashing and people using machinery.

He said burn-offs were another issue.

“There’s a lot of fires from burn-offs escaping or reigniting the next day,” he said.

“It accounts for a quarter of the fires we attend, so people need to make sure they are extinguished properly.

“Make sure you’re checking the conditions before burning off, and checking if conditions are going to be windy the day after as well.”

Mr Elso said it was important residents know the environment they live in and have a fire plan ready.

He said the CFA website and the Vic Emergency app were both vital services.

Local brigades are finalising briefings and preparing for the bushfire season.

Mr Elso said once the Fire Danger Period (FDP) comes into effect, CFA has a zero- tolerance approach to any fires caused by negligent behaviour.

“Expect any escaped or uncontrolled fire you start to be investigated by CFA and Victoria Police,” he said.

The fire danger period for district 14, which includes both Hume and Whittlesea, starts on Monday, December 14.