Stern warning issued to campers after spate of illegal campfires

FIRE: Smouldering fires can turn into a serious disaster like the 2015 Moyston fires.

FIRE: Smouldering fires can turn into a serious disaster like the 2015 Moyston fires.

A number of illegal campfires in the Grampians region has lead Country Fire Authority and district police to issue stern warnings to the public about the risks involved.

Police were investigating an illegal campfire that was left unattended at Mount Dryden on Wednesday.

A campfire at Halls Gap was also left unattended on Friday, January 6 after campers left the fire while cooking food. 

Ararat Country Fire Authority operations manager Bernie Fradd said the “reckless behaviour” caused Stawell and Halls Gap fire brigades to respond to an event that was easily avoidable.

“We are seeing this occur far too often and it is putting a strain on our resources when our units are called out to these incidents,” he said.

“There are risks involved in having a campfire during the fire danger period, but if you desperately must have a fire then you must be absolutely certain it has been put out by either using water or raking back the ashes.”

Mr Fradd said smoldering fires posed a big threat to the community if they were not adequately extinguished during the fire danger season. 

“If the next day happens to be a hot and windy day the fire can take off and become something more serious quite easily, similar to the Moyston fires which is still raw for people in the area,” he said.

Stawell Leading Senior Constable Wendy Wheaton said lighting illegal campfires or leaving them unattended were chargeable offences. 

“Perpetrators will be investigated by police and would most likely be prosecuted by a magistrate,” she said. 

Parks Victoria fire and emergency director David Nugent said about 10 per cent of bushfires on public land were caused by escaped campfires. 

“Visitors and campers in our parks need to understand escaped campfires are dangerous and can threaten lives and property,” he said.

Parks Victoria issued more than 40 fire-related fines during the 2015-16 financial year.

”Infringement notices of $466 can be issued for leaving a campfire unattended with a maximum penalty of up to $15,546 if the matter is dealt with by a Court,” Mr Nugent said. 

“Lighting a fire on a day of total fire ban or allowing a fire to remain alight on a day of total fire ban is extremely serious and attracts even more severe penalties of up to $37,310, or two years’ jail, or both in some situations.”

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