Bushfires and grass fires are a serious threat to farmers. A fire can wipe out years of hard work in a moment.
While it is impossible to eliminate the risk of fire, farmers can introduce measures to reduce the threat.
A Bushfire Survival Plan should be an integral part of an overall business management plan, and should include regular fuel reduction and adherence to good farming practices.
Fact sheets containing further information on farm protection are available from your local council, regional Country Fire Service (CFS) office or the CFS website www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Reduce your bushfire risk by preparing your property and equipment
Reduce the fuel and the threat is reduced – this simple rule should be central to all fire safety plans.
All assets; buildings, stock, crops, fences, hay stacks and fodder resources, need wide areas free of dry grass, undergrowth and fallen branches, to protect them from the impact of fire.
The fuel breaks should be a minimum of four metres wide, although up to 20 metres is recommended for homesteads, hay stacks and fuel storage areas.
Grazing, ploughing, harrowing, slashing and mowing are all effective methods of clearing the land. Maintaining the breaks should be an ongoing commitment, particularly as summer approaches.
If concerned about the bushfire risk from native vegetation in the vicinity of your home you should obtain a copy of the “Guide to Management of Native Vegetation to Reduce the Impact of Bushfire” to work out what you do to manage the risk. The Guide and application forms for obtaining clearance approval are available from www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Farmers need to manage burning off with extreme care because the practice presents a major fire risk.
Unless planned carefully and under the right conditions, there is a real danger the burn off could get out of control. If that happens, you risk prosecution and compensation claims.
A council permit must be obtained for burning off during the Fire Danger Season. When burning off farmers should:
- Give adequate notice to neighbours (stipulated on the permit)
- Have adequate personnel, water and firefighting equipment
- Light the fire on the leeward side and use a strip burning pattern to control the fire.
- Adhere to all other conditions listed on the permit
* Outside of Fire Danger Season please refer to the Broad Acre Burning Code of Practice www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Farm machinery maintenance
Sparks from machinery such as rotary mowers, slashes, angle grinders, welders and oxy cutting tools can cause bushfires during the fire danger season. The risk is reduced if you maintain your equipment.
It’s critical to regularly overhaul machinery and make sure such items as mowers, slashers, angle grinders, welders and oxy cutting tools are in good working order. Many bushfires start due to inappropriate use or faults with equipment. It only takes one spark on the wrong day and with the right conditions a fire can easily get away from you.”
The following tips can help reduce the risk significantly:
- Keep spark arresters clean
- Check the exhaust system for holes
- Fit an efficient spark arrester to the exhaust pipe of tractors
- Regularly move dry grass and stubble from vehicles, particularly near exhaust systems, stone guards and bash plates
- Keep machinery clean of oil and grease.
- Inspect fuel lines and tanks for leaks
- Check brake adjustments
- Lubricate machinery regularly to prevent overheating
- Keep battery terminals and electrical wiring clean
- Store machinery away from crops
During the fire danger season, always have an extinguisher, water, rake or shovel on hand and make regular checks
The use of fire during the fire danger season is strictly regulated. Severe penalties of up to $10,000 and two years jail can be imposed if you break the law. On the spot fines of up to $315 may also apply.
Protection of fodder reserves
Fodder reserves such as haystacks and silos should be well sited and protected by fuel breaks. They may provide the only feed for livestock following a fire.
Choose a safe site away from the likely direction of fire, roads, boundary fences and trees.
Surround the reserve with a 20 metre fuel breaks, or erect a temporary fence to enable stock to graze up to the stack.
For the best protection, install a sprinkler system and ensure the all flammable reserves are insured. Silage is non-flammable so does not require precautions.
Care of livestock
Plan ahead by identifying the safest paddock for livestock to be housed on either your property or a neighbour’s. Look for a reliable water supply, clear access, minimum fuel and secure fencing.
Consider fire proofing the safe paddock with steel or concrete fence posts. Internal paddock gates will enable stock to be moved without crossing public roads. Remember that electric fencing could be ineffective if power is cut.
On the night before total fire ban days, thoroughly water the safe paddock and move stock into the paddock if you will be away the next day.
If fire threatens, animals should be moved into an open space with little vegetation. Do not stable or yard animals as they can cope well on their own if given space. Remove any equipment from horses as it may burn.
Investing in firefighting and safety equipment and keeping it well maintained should be a priority for farmers.
Recommended equipment includes:
- A firefighting trailer with its own pump, motor, hoses and water tank.
- A 3.7 kW portable diesel or petrol motor coupled to a fire pump for independent water pressure.
- Good quality firefighting hoses.
- A protective housing on the pump to stop fuel vaporisation and an in-line filter.
- A sprinkler system for the house and garden.
- A UHF CB radio.
It is essential to know your risk by knowing your Fire Ban District and checking the Fire Danger Rating for your area on the day.
You will find all the information you need by visiting www.cfs.sa.gov.au; or contact the Bushfire Information Hotline for further details on 1800 362 361 (TTY 133 677).
SA Country Fire Service Codes of Practice – Broad Acre Burning and Metal Cutting Tools and Welders
The number of fires which get out of control outside of the gazetted Fire Danger Season in South Australia is of concern to the SA CFS and the rural community. The SA CFS responds to an average of 310 fires each year outside of the Fire Danger Season.
In an attempt to reduce the risk the SA CFS has introduced 3 Codes of Practice to provide a guide to land holders. These Codes define simple measures and actions that should be considered whenever these activities are being undertaken. These Codes of Practice cover broad acre burning, and the use of metal cutting tools and welders.
To view the Codes of Practice visit www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Metal Cutting Tools and Welders Code of Practice
The use of metal cutting tools and welders is common practice in both the urban and rural environment.
The use of these tools has been the point of ignition for numerous fires. The main cause of these fires has been from a lack of planning and preparation and inappropriate use of these tools and welders in and around flammable vegetation and other material.
Restrictions apply to the use of metal cutting tools and welders during the declared Fire Danger Season and on Total Fire Ban days as defined in the Fire and Emergency Services Act 2005, and Regulations.
No restrictions are applied to their use outside of the Fire Danger Season and as a consequence many fires result from use of these tools and the lack of consideration of basic fire safety precautions.
This code applies to all people operating metal cutting tools and welders outside of the declared Fire Danger Season.
Broad Acre Burning Code of Practice
Broad acre stubble burning is the farm management practice that produces the greatest fire risk every summer and autumn if not carefully planned and implemented with caution.
Weather conditions conducive to burning continue after the FDS has finished and restrictions on the use of fire under the Fire and Emergency Services Act, 2005 no longer apply, unless a Total Fire Ban is declared.
As there are no legislative conditions to adhere to, many stubble burning activities are conducted inappropriately increasing the risk of bushfire and the likelihood of fires escaping into unburnt neighbouring land.
This Code of Practice serves as a guide to the South Australian farming community to assist in the practice of safe broad acre stubble burning. The Code outlines the process and resources recommended to plan for and conduct a safe broad acre burn outside of the Fire Danger Season.
Vegetation Pile Burning – Code of Practice
The practice of “vegetation pile burning” has been undertaken for many years and is a very effective way to dispose of accumulated vegetation waste in the rural setting.
Over the years the practice of vegetation pile burning has led to the start of numerous fires. The main cause of uncontrolled fires from vegetation pile burning has been from a lack of planning and preparation and inappropriate burning techniques for the environment in which it is conducted.
All vegetation pile or broad acre burning must comply with any requirements set out in the EPA Environmental Protection (Air Quality) Policy 2016.
To view the Codes of Practice visit www.cfs.sa.gov.au
Article kindly provided by SA Country Fire Service.