Fire ban message not getting through

A call-out to a wood-fire barbecue during the night of a total fire ban has prompted firefighters to speak out.

Batemans Bay Fire and Rescue was called to what they thought was a yard fire in Haven Place, Batehaven, at 1am on Wednesday.

Firefighters found residents cooking a wood-fire barbecue in their backyard and extinguished it, as a total fire ban was in place.

“People just don’t get it,” Batemans Bay Fire and Rescue station officer Phillip Eberle said.

He said it was important to relay the message, especially after charges were laid over a fire in Tasmania where someone was believed to have left a campfire burning.

“That sort of thing can occur,” he said. “The innocent act of having a barbecue can have ramifications beyond the individual’s short-term enjoyment.

“A total fire ban is a total fire ban. And a total fire ban covers everyone in the community.”

Lighting a fire during a ban carries fines of up to $5500 and 12 months’ jail.

If the fire escapes and damages or destroys property, life and the environment, it can carry up to $100,000 in fines and 14 years’ jail.

NSW Fire and Rescue zone duty commander Inspector Craig Davies said it wasn’t in Fire and Rescue’s power to issue fines. He said when arson was involved, they referred the investigation to police.

“We do have the ability to refer the matter to police should we need to,” he said.

Insp Davies said some people weren’t aware of total fire bans and were sometimes issued with a warning.

“A lot of people aren’t aware and are happy to put a fire out.”

Fire ban dos and don’ts

ALLOWED:

Electric barbecues, if:

- It is under the direct control of a responsible adult at all times

- No combustible material is within two metres during operation

Gas barbecues, if:

- It is under the direct control of a responsible adult at all times

- No combustible material is within two metres during operation

- An adequate stream of water is available to be used immediately, and

         *The barbecue is within 20m of a permanent private dwelling, such as a house, or

         *The barbecue is in a picnic area and is approved by council, National Parks or State Forest.

NOT ALLOWED:

- Incinerators and barbecues which burn solid fuel, including wood and charcoal.

- No fire can be lit in the open and all permits are suspended.

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