Fire ban crackdown welcomed

Headshot of Adam Poulsen
Adam PoulsenMidwest Times
Superintendent Craig Smith.
Camera IconSuperintendent Craig Smith. Credit: Adam Poulsen, Midwest Times

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services Mid West-Gascoyne Superintendent has welcomed news the department will crack down on people who breach total fire bans.

DFES last week announced a new scheme to prosecute those who commit serious offences and educate the community on the impact of breaching a ban.

Supt Craig Smith said many fires that occurred on total fire ban days were avoidable.

“There’s a lot of fires that don’t need to happen and could be very easily prevented if people took a bit more care and were aware of when those bans were in place,” he said.

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“It’s a serious breach of the law to light a fire on a total fire ban day and people need to be aware of that.”

DFES announced it will work with WA Police, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and local governments to ensure offenders are punished. Those who are caught could face a fine of up to $25,000 and up to a year in prison.

“People who live in Geraldton or rural areas know they’ve got bush around, they know when it’s hot, windy and dry; they need to make sure if they’re going to do some burn-off, or light camp fires, or they’re going to do some grinding in dry vegetation, the potential for fire is always there,” Supt Smith said.

Supt Smith said unnecessary fires put a huge strain on regional communities, which usually relied on volunteers to fight bushfires.

“People have got to give up their work and their livelihoods to chase a fire that could go on for days,” he said.

According to DFES, nearly a third of out-of-control fires on total fire ban days in the 2016-17 bushfire season were the result of banned fire activity.

Total fire bans are usually announced at emergency.wa.gov.au the day before they are enforced, but can be declared at any time if necessary.

People can also call DFES on 9395 9300.

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