A fire season normally runs for three or four months.
- The fire season in northern Australia occurs during the dry winter months
- As the sun moves south, so does the area of Australia experiencing a fire season
- Each State in Australia has their own specific rules, but as a general guide – no fire should be lit in the open during a Total Fire Ban.
For public safety a Total Fire Ban is declared for days when fires are likely to escape and/or be difficult to contain.
What is a Total Fire Ban?
A Total Fire Ban may be declared when the Rural Fire Services Commissioner believes that any fires are likely to escape and/or be difficult to contain. An extreme fire danger is caused by, but not limited to; bush fuel, dry vegetation together with hot, dry and windy weather. The Bureau of Meteorology (http://www.bom.gov.au/) gives advice on current and forecast weather conditions and also provides fire danger ratings during the bushfire period.
Declarations are based on Fire Areas which are smaller & based on local government area boundaries. This means fire weather information and Total Fire Bans are more specific to local conditions.
In each State, the Rural Fire Services Commissioner decides when to declare a Total Fire Ban. The decision is usually made around 5pm each afternoon during the bushfire danger period and the Total fire Ban applies to the following day, starting from midnight and lasting 24 hours. The Commission is also responsible for exemptions to Total Fire Bans which are detailed each time a ban is declared.
During a total fire ban certain restrictions apply to lighting fires in the open. The degree of fire danger is calculated using information on temperature, wind speed, relative humidity and the drought factor (how dry the vegetation is). This information is forwarded to bushfire services from the Bureau of Meteorology twice a day. The mid-afternoon weather statement is used to determine the need for a total Fire Ban the following day. Total Fire Ban announcements are made in newspapers, radio & on television.
When travelling & camping try listening to the evening or morning news on a local radio station for fire restriction warnings updates & Total Fire Ban warnings.
What are the Total Fire Ban rules for each state?
Each state has their own specific rules for Total Fire Ban days. Please check with the local authorities in the area you are travelling & camping in to make certain what Total Fire Ban rules apply to you.
Usually, no fire should be lit in the open during a Total Fire Ban, this includes in incinerators & barbecues which burn solid fuel, e.g. wood, heat beads or charcoal, campfires, outdoor ovens, fires for warmth or to burn off grass or rubbish.
You should postpone working with chainsaws, plant trimmers or lawnmowers or driving amongst crops, grass and undergrowth, because the risk of starting fires is very high.
However, in some states gas & electric barbecues may be used if…..
- it is on a residential property within 20m of the house or permanent dwelling
- if it is a picnic area and the appliance is approved by council, National Park or State Forest
- it is under the direct control of an adult
- the ground within 3m of the barbecue is cleared of all materials which could burn
- you have an immediate and continuous supply of water available.
By hitting the state bush fire services icon below, you will find information on that particular state & the rules or restrictions that apply during a declared Total Fire Ban day.
Fines and penalties
Lighting a fire on a day of Total Fire Ban can attract a fine of up to $5,500 and/or 12 months jail in some states. Penalties for a fire that escapes and damages or destroys life, property or the environment can attract much greater fines & jail terms with maximums at $100,000 and/or 14 years.
Civil law suits can also be brought against the person responsible for a fire by those seeking compensation for losses sustained.
I have a tip that can take 5 strokes off anyone’s golf game: it’s called an eraser – Arnold Palmer.