'Stretched beyond our limits': Fires under investigation
LANDOWNERS who allow fires to escape containment lines in an effort to clean up the bush could face legal action, heavy fines and even up to five years in jail.
NSW Rural Fire Service Northern Rivers zone manager Michael Brett said two fire investigators will assist his team on the Northern Rivers following a dramatic increase in the number of illegal and escaped hazard reduction burns.
Heavy fines apply for the unsafe use of fire or if a fire escapes.
Landholders who fail to notify firefighters and neighbours face fines of up to $5,500 and/or 12 months jail while escaped fires attract penalties of up to $110,000 and/or five years prison.
He said he was very concerned as one-third of all illegal fire activity reported in the Northern Rivers District during the past year had occurred within the last month.
Supt Brett said any landholders found to have deliberately allowed fires to burn beyond their boundaries could find themselves in strife.
"We have been stretched beyond our limits so I have a couple of investigators coming up this week to help us get a handle on the point of origin of some fires and find out how these fires tarted," he said.
"Once we have confirmation of how these fires escaped contaminant lines will start pursuing land-holders."
Supt Brett said the number of fires which have been classified as escaped burns has recently skyrocketed.
"The percentage of escaped burns far outweighs the number of fire which we don't know how they were started," he said.
"It seems the majority of fires may have come from landholders who have allowed their fires to escape so we really need to identify where these fires came from and we will pursue the landholders legally."
The NSW RFS will also send additional fire investigators to the Northern Tablelands and Clarence Valley regions following a recent spike in the number of illegal and escaped hazard reduction burns.
Information about hazard reduction burning and required notifications is available on the NSW RFS website at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/BFDP.