Working on prevention

By Zoe McMaugh

The NSW Rural Fire Service is urging farmers to work with them and prevent potentially serious fires during the warmer months.

Drought conditions have led many RFS zones to enforce the Bush Fire Danger Period earlier than normal, and firefighters are urging landholders to familiarise themselves with tools regarding harvesting activities.

The tools incorporate the Harvest Safety Alert which provides a signal to farmers to take extra precautions to prevent ignition and spread of fires.

The other is the Grain Harvesting Guide, which allows farmers to make their own decisions about whether they should cancel or defer harvesting based on the weather conditions.

Copies of the guide are available at the Deniliquin Fire Control Centre, at Deniliquin Airport, or under the plan and prepare tab at

Mid Murray Zone community safety officer Inspector Doug Adamson said the recommended trigger for ceasing harvest activities is an index of 35.

‘‘The indexes are determined on a combination of weather factors, including temperature, wind and humidity,’’ Insp Adamson said.

‘‘When it becomes too hot, the potential for a fire increases.

‘‘It creates a risk to your crop, to your machinery and to your neighbours.

‘‘Because of the drought fuel loading is not too bad, but there is still potential for a fire to run through quite easily.

‘‘The important thing is getting everyone to use the guide.  At the moment you may have one farmer pull up, but on the next property they don’t.’’

Insp Adamson said crop and header fires cause about $30 million in losses plus additional impact of lost crops each year in NSW.

Just as significant is the risk posed by spontaneous combustion in hay bales.

Insp Adamson said it is important to check hay stacks, and to use the right methods when baling.

‘‘If you bale wet, you can get a lot of serious problems,’’ he said.

‘‘You should allow the hay to cure properly before you bale.  Leave it on the ground to cure and make sure you rake it too.’’

During the statutory Bush Fire Danger Period, any person wishing to light a fire will require a permit.

It is the responsibility of the permit holder to limit the ignition and prevent the spread of fires from your property. This includes fires that may start due to harvesting operations.

‘‘People burning with a fire permit must comply with standard conditions.  These conditions include notifying neighbours and the Fire Control Centre, installing fire breaks, being in attendance while the fire is alight, having firefighting equipment in working order on site and no burning of timber.  Only grass and stubble is to be burnt.

‘‘Even with a permit you need to check whether a Total Fire Ban is in force before lighting any fires.

‘‘We have all seen the devastation that bush fires can bring to a community, so I strongly advise residents to contact their local brigades and use their expertise to assist in carrying out safe hazard reductions,’’ Insp Adamson said.

“Never leave a fire unattended and if a fire does escape, it is essential to call Triple Zero (000) immediately so that emergency services can respond accordingly and minimise the damage.”

The NSW RFS encourages all residents to have a Bush Fire Survival Plan. Residents should also continue with their hazard reduction activities.