Grass fire concerns growing for farmers

Grass fire concerns growing for farmers

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BE CAREFUL: There is an increased risk of grass fires, the CFA says.

BE CAREFUL: There is an increased risk of grass fires, the CFA says.

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Spring growth prompts fire warning from authority.

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Authorities are warning primary producers across Victoria to be prepared for the heightened risk of grass fires this summer, 12 months after parts of the state experienced devastating bushfires.

Good seasonal conditions and above average rainfall in most of the state have prompted the warning as some producers struggle to deal with an abundance of feed.

CFA chief officer Jason Heffernan said prolific grass growth in places like East Gippsland and the north-east meant the risk of grass fires was more severe than a year ago.

"Grass fires move exceptionally fast and can travel between 10 and 20 kilometres an hour with significant winds so certainly you can very rarely outrun a fast-moving grass fire and that's what makes them so dangerous," Mr Hefferman said.

Annual modelling done by The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre reveals there is an elevated grass fire risk for Victoria this summer, mainly due to consistent rainfall in winter and spring prompting unusual grass growth.

"This time last year and the year before that the Australian continent was suffering from prolonged drought so those grass fuel levels weren't to the scale they are this season," Mr Hefferman said.

"Some farming communities have had their best yield in terms of harvest but there's also dangers associated with that and increased dangers from perennial and other grass growth."

Mr Hefferman said fire crews had already responded to a series of harvest fires this summer sparked by stubble.

"At the moment we're working with municipalities to make sure roadside vegetation is being managed and other slashing activities are carried out with our land management partners to ensure they too put in place protections for the upcoming season," Mr Hefferman said.

He said it was important farmers had a detailed fire survival plan which included what they would do in the event of a blaze, along with where they would go and what they would take.

Bryan Hayden, who owns Buchan Station at Buchan, said grass fires were a constant worry, especially after rapid growth during spring had resulted in a lot of dry feed on his 800-hectare property.

"We have not seen feed like this around this time of year for at least four or five years," Mr Hayden said.

"There is always that fear that someone could throw a match or cigarette out the window and that would be disastrous so we ask people take particular care this summer."

He said stock levels were up on year-ago levels but it was a constant challenge to "keep up pace" with feed about this time each year.

North-east Victorian beef farmer George Kucka, Guys Forest, said he was concerned about the lack of roadside weed management in the lead-up to summer.

"It's simply too late to do anything now but VicRoads and local councils need to manage their roadsides by the end of October early or November at the latest," Mr Kucka said.

"No one is ever confident going into the fire season. It's always an unknown quantity but due to the grass growth which has been phenomenal this year, of course we are worried and with the big fuel load we expect fires."

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