It’s the time of year where hundreds of fire prevention notices are sent out, demanding residents cut their grass. But one council-managed asset is bucking the trend, growing grass over 1.7 metres high.
As Ballarat sweltered through 33 degrees on Thursday and a bushfire erupted at Buninyong, business owners near the old Latrobe Street saleyards shared fire safety concerns about the grass on the deserted block.
The temperature is forecast to hit 36 degrees in Ballarat on Friday, with hot northerly winds.
Ballarat Tractors sits directly across the road from the saleyards on Winter Street, where some of the weeds and grass have grown to impressive heights.
Branch manager Sam Risbey said it was “a bit hypocritical” for council not to ensure its land was fire safe.
“It’d be fairly unlikely for it to impact our tractors, but as it heats up, it would be best if they did something about it,” he said. “There’s plenty local contractors could be employed and have it cleaned up in a matter of hours if they wanted to.”
According to City of Ballarat’s website, grass is expected to be no taller than 10 centimetres, with dead undergrowth and fallen branches to be cleaned to prevent flare ups.
Under the CFA Act, residents who do not clean up their properties could be fined 10 penalty units, or around $1661 as of July 2018.
City of Ballarat director of infrastructure and environment Terry Demeo chalked up the unusually tall grass to the continuing transfer of the saleyards.
“The City of Ballarat is currently in the process of transferring management responsibility for the former Latrobe Street saleyards site from previous operators Central Victoria Livestock Exchange (CVLX) to Council,” he said in a media response.
“Council will begin to immediately clear and secure the site, including the grass.”
A person who works near the saleyards, who spoke to The Courier on the condition of anonymity, said while councils are the first ones to complain about fire risk, the saleyards were a continuous issue.
“It’s not just because they’ve closed it and it’s now overgrown, it’s always like that,” the worker said.
Another nearby employee said that while some sections of the property were mowed recently, other parts near the corner of Learmonth Road and Winter Street were left to grow very long.
CFA chief officer Steve Warrington said in a statement that though rain has made some fuel less flammable in the short-term, the “current weather outlook indicates a return to dry conditions and elevated fire risk”.
“While CFA and its partner agencies Parks Victoria, Forest Fire Management … 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.