Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Campfire crackdown

Unattended campfires in bushland along the Murray River remain a major concern for authorities as the region experiences another period of extreme heat and bushfire risk.

January 30, 2014 4:29am

On alert: Authorities spoke to more than 1500 campers between Echuca and Tocumwal during the Australia Day weekend about camp fires.

During the Australia Day weekend, more than 1500 campers were spoken to between Echuca and Tocumwal.

About 100 people will soon be receiving infringement notices for a variety of offences under the Forests Act and National Parks Act.

These offences were observed as part of a multi-agency operation involving the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, Parks Victoria and Victoria Police.

‘‘The most concerning infringements continue to be for unattended camp fires,’’ DEPI senior forests investigator Greg Chant said.

‘‘These fines are fairly steep, too, which is reflective of the seriousness of the offence. To leave a camp fire unattended, the on-the-spot fine is $433 and DEPI also has the option of taking the offender to court, depending on the nature of the offence, weather conditions or size of the fire.’’

Mr Chant said about 20 per cent of the campers visited had camp fires and the majority were seen to be doing the right thing.

‘‘However, the message that unattended camp fires pose a major bushfire threat is just not resonating with some and could have serious consequences for them and others in the immediate area,’’ he said.

To be legal, a campfire must:

Not be lit on days of total fire ban;

The fire is lit in a properly constructed fireplace or in a trench at least 30cm deep;

The area within a distance of 3m from the outer perimeter of the fire is clear of all flammable material;

The fire does not occupy an area of more than 1spm and the size and dimensions of solid fuel used are the minimum necessary for the purpose;

A person is in attendance at all times while the fire is alight and has the capacity and the means to extinguish the fire; and

The fire is completely extinguished before the person leaves. This should be done with water, not soil, as fires can still smoulder under soil. If a fire is cool to touch, it is safe to leave.

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