Prepare before fire danger period 

REGION - Defending your home against the threat of fire takes serious planning and regular maintenance.

It is important that with the significant rainfall in recent months, and the lush undergrowth that has followed the rain, people need to start preparing their properties and their Fire Action Plans now, before the introduction of the Fire Danger Period.

The Halls Gap/Pomonal Community Safety Committee is urging all landowners in the Halls Gap area to start preparing now for the Annual Clean-up day to be held next weekend of the October 20 and 21, 2012.

The committee is a joint agency initiative involving Northern Grampians Shire Council, CFA, Parks Victoria, Victorian Police, DSE, Ararat Rural City Council and Local Tourist Operators

This year will be the eighth year that a clean-up day has been held for the Halls Gap Community, and the first for the Pomonal Community with many land holders using the weekend as preparation for the coming summer.

Chairman of the Halls Gap Safety Committee, CFA's Michael Boatman, said vegetation is often the first thing people think about when preparing their home for fire, but it is only one of the factors that you need to take into account when completing your bushfire survival plan.

"Regular maintenance around the home is important also. Removing flammable items from around the home such as paper, boxes, wood and chemicals is a great start. However, don't forget to maintain mechanical devices like pumps, which often lay around unused throughout the year but are relied on during a bushfire," he said.

There are also many things to consider in the garden. Long, dry grass, weeds and plant-based mulch such as pea straw can also pose a risk, as embers landing around the house can easily ignite this type of vegetation.

"Tall trees near your house are not the major threat. It is what is growing underneath that is the biggest problem. Consider pruning shrubs so their tops are well away from tree branches and remove twigs and leaves that accumulate underneath them," Mr Boatman said.

Once again Skyrider will be providing chipping and mulching of green waste for residents and as in past years the Northern Grampians Shire Council will have the Devils Garden green waste transfer station open for free green waste on both days from 1pm to 4pm.

Halls Gap residents unable to get to the transfer station, are urged to book at the Halls Gap Post Office for the free collection of their green waste.

To get ready for a bushfire, people in the Halls Gap are advised to prepare a Bushfire Survival Plan.

This is a well thought out plan about how you will prepare and respond to a fire in your area.

Halls Gap residents are also invited to take advantage of the Free Home Bushfire Advice Service which offers a free one on one assessment of the fire risk around your property. Phone 1800 468 115 to book for a free assessment over the clean-up weekend.

"Whatever you decide, you need to spend a decent amount of time preparing you and your family," Mr Boatman said.

When the risk of bushfire is high, the Emergency services will be on full alert but it isn't possible to give personal warnings to every home. Listen to your local radio. Keep in contact with your neighbours, and watch for smoke. Keeping informed could save your life.

For more information on how to prepare the best possible bushfire plan call the Victorian Bushfire Information line on 1800 240 667 or visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au or www.dse.vic.gov.au

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