Councils begin fire inspections as spring growth raises fire risk

Ballarat and surrounding councils have stepped up their fire prevention inspections of private land with high spring temperatures drying out grass and raising fire risk.

Ballarat, Golden Plains Shire and Hepburn councils began their annual fire hazard inspections this week, with fire prevention officers from Moorabool Shire having already been on the job for several weeks, issuing 360 fire prevention notices this 2017/18 season.

The City of Ballarat recently sent about 2000 pre-fire season letters to owners of vacant land urging them to prepare their properties for the fire season.

Ballarat fire prevention officers headed to the north side of the municipality, where it dries out first, for the first round of inspections.

During the 2016/17 fire season, a total of 400 Fire Prevention Notices were mailed to landowners and occupants directing them to reduce fire risks on their properties. Sebastopol received the most fire prevention notices in 2016/17, with 47 notices issued to property owners.

MOWED: Robert Edwards cleared thigh-high grass near the St Aloysius Parish School crossing in Redan because he feared children could encounter snakes. Picture: Kate Healy

MOWED: Robert Edwards cleared thigh-high grass near the St Aloysius Parish School crossing in Redan because he feared children could encounter snakes. Picture: Kate Healy

Property owners who ignore a fire prevention notice can be slapped with a $1586 fine and charged for works council may undertake to make the property safe.

Grass growth has accelerated rapidly in the past few weeks, with warm days coming after the wet, cool start to spring combining to create ideal growth conditions.

CFA operations manager Brett Boatman said the new growth would soon start to dry out, with the start date for the official fire restriction period to be confirmed this week, but likely to begin either late this month or early December.

Redan resident Robert Edwards took matters in to his own hands last week when he noticed thigh-high grass overtaking the approach to the school crossing outside St Aolysius Parish School.

After speaking to the crossing supervisor, who had reported the growth to council but been told it would be several weeks before it would be mowed, he spent 10 hours mowing it himself.