Otways patrols step up to prevent illegal campfires

January 12, 2022 BY

FFMVic crews luckily contained this illegal campfire near Anglesea from getting out of control over the Easter long weekend in 2021. Photo: FOREST FIRE MANAGEMENT VICTORIA

THE Conservation Regulator and Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) are reminding campers and day-trippers visiting the Otways or other forests and parks over the festive season to protect themselves and the environment by following important public land rules.

Anyone spending their holidays in the Victorian bush is responsible for knowing the rules around campfires, rubbish, and four-wheel driving and trail bike riding.

About 10 per cent of bushfires in Victoria are caused by illegal campfires, including unattended campfires.

In the summer of 2020/21, patrols detected more than 50 illegal campfires in state forests and national parks across the Otways and Surf Coast.

These included abandoned campfires left burning in dense forest near Gellibrand and Forrest and in coastal areas near Lorne, Aireys Inlet and Anglesea.

Since the start of November, Authorised Officers have detected 70 unattended campfires across the state, and have stepped up patrols at popular camping and recreational sites to prevent bushfires.

To ensure campfires don’t become bushfires, FFMVic is urging campers to follow campfire safety rules:

  • In state forests, use a purpose-built fireplace if provided. Otherwise use a trench at least 30cm deep
  • Branches and logs on your campfire must not exceed one metre in length
  • Never leave a campfire unattended – stay within 50m and in sight
  • Campfires must be extinguished with water, not soil, and
  • All campfires are banned on Total Fire Ban days.

The maximum  penalty  for lighting a fire during a  Total Fire Ban  is $43,617 or two years in jail or both.

On-the-spot fines of up to $545 can be issued to people breaching other campfire safety rules. A person can face a maximum penalty of up to $18,174 if the matter is prosecuted in court, under the  Forest Act 1958.

“If you light a campfire, you are legally responsible for ensuring that it is safe, does not escape and is completely extinguished before you leave,” FFMVic Otway district manager David Roberts said

“We know that an abandoned campfire left burning in forest has the potential to become a bushfire in just a matter of minutes.

“When you’re packing for your camping trip – remember to pack a bucket to extinguish your campfire. “It’s only when campfire ashes have been doused in water and are cool to touch, that they are safe to leave.”

For four-wheel drivers and trail-bike-riders, there is an extensive network of roads and tracks in parks, forests and reserves open to the public. Sticking to these will prevent soil erosion and native vegetation destruction.

Track updates can be found at the MapShare website or on the More to Explore app.

Report environmental crime to 136 186.

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