Under the Rural Fires Act, 1997, land managers and owners are responsible for carrying out hazard reduction to protect existing dwellings, major buildings or other assets susceptible to fire. Effective hazard reduction is one way to reduce the risk of damage to homes and structures by bushfire. The RFS Commissioner has the authority to order all owners and managers of private, commercial and government land to conduct essential hazard reductions.
Agencies such as National Parks, State Forests and local Council reduce hazards on their property according to strategies in the Bush Fire Risk Management Plan put together by the Blue Mountains Bush Fire Management Committee.
Private landholders or occupiers must also reduce hazards on their property. If hazards are not reduced, the RFS can issue a notice (Section 66) requiring a private landowner or manager to reduce fuel loads.
The RFS offers advice and assistance on hazard reduction. RFS volunteers often do hazard reduction work to help protect their communities, but it is not their legal responsibility to do so, because the RFS does not own or manage land. Volunteers work with private landholders, National Parks, State Forests and NSW Fire Brigades to do hazard reduction on a range of land tenures.
To learn more about hazard reductions click on the NSW Rural Fire Service website.
To learn more about past and planned hazard reductions at Mt Wilson click on the Community Protection Plan - pdf Bush Fire Preparation map (5.22 MB) on this website
In Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine private properties rarely require large scale burns to reduce hazards. For residents here, reducing the risk of bushfire is mainly achieved by maintaining cleared space around the house and properly maintaining the garden. This can result in a pile of dead vegetation (a bushfire risk) and, if it cannot be chipped, mulched or taken to the tip, the best way to dispose of it is to undertake a pile burn.
When I was a kid almost every Sunday afternoon Dad would light the incinerator. So too did a lot of other dads which resulted in a thick cloud of pollution over Sydney where we lived. The restrictions that are now placed on the burning off of garden waste are mainly an attempt to control pollution. In the Blue Mountains this is the responsibility of Blue Mountains City Council and generally pile burns are not allowed
After community consultation, the BMCC has granted certain outlying areas (including Mt Wilson and Mt Irvine) approval to conduct pile burns as long as certain conditions are met. Oversight of this process has been handed to the Blue Mountains District Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service in Katoomba. It is vitally important that these conditions are abided by as failure to do so could see the withdrawal of this concession. During the non-bushfire period (usually 1 April to 30 September) the process, in brief, is as follows:
- Give your neighbours and District Office (4784 7444) at least 24 hours' notice of your intention to light up. District Office hours are 9-5, Monday to Friday. Please remember this if you plan to burn at the weekend. You can advise District Office of up to a week of days if you are unsure of exactly which day will be the most suitable for a pile burn.
- On the day of the burn advise District Office that you are lighting up and when you have put out the pile burn (do not burn overnight). These calls can be made at weekends as volunteers staff the phones at this time. There is a requirement for a responsible adult to be present at all times, an adequate water supply to be available and the pile must be 20m from the nearest residential building.
- Ensure that your pile burn abides by the document Standards for Pile Burning, available from www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, District Office or your Brigade Community Engagement Officer. In brief, material must only be vegetation from your property, the pile should be no greater than 2m in length or width and must be no greater than 1.5m high, material must be dead and dry and no logs over 150mm in diameter.
During the bushfire season (usually 1st October to 31st March) the increased risk of bushfire means that any pile burns allowed by Council also require a permit from the District Office of the NSW Rural Fire Service. As this entails an inspection of your pile it is preferable that you give a fortnight to complete the process. Permits can be given for up to 21 days but they are usually given for a lesser period. In the event of a TOBAN (Total Fire Ban) all permits are revoked. See the Blue Mountains District NSW Rural Fire Service website for more details.
Your local brigade will do their best to protect properties in the event of a fire but they cannot be everywhere. You need to give your property the best chance of surviving on its own and being able to protect you and your family. Even if your brigade can get to your street, if they have to choose between properties, crew safety dictates that they will have to choose the better maintained and safer property to protect. So, please:
GIVE US A BREAK – ALONG YOUR BOUNDARY, AROUND YOUR HOUSE AND WATER SUPPLY AND THROUGH YOUR PROPERTY ENTRANCE