Fire Watch - Total Fire Ban day December 20, 2013

UPDATE 10.20PM: The fire on Coath Street is out.

CFA confirmed it was a "small fire" and was "put out quickly".

UPDATE 9.10PM: Two CFA units are attending a bushfire on Coath Street in West Bendigo.

It is listed as "small".

UPDATE 4.22PM: The CFA has now downgraded the advice warning for the Pyalong and Tooborac areas.

Firefighters have stopped the spread of the grass fire which has now been declared 'safe'.

UPDATE 4.20PMThe fire on Rothacker Road in Serpentine is under control.

Loddon Mallee Operations officer Chris Jacobsen said it poses no threat to the public.

"Because of the weather conditions eight brigades responded to the call but due to the work of the initial four crews on scene, supported by the aircraft, they were able to divert them," he said.

"The fire is now effectively out and there is no more visible flame.

"We received the call at 3.20pm.

"It was started by a lightning strike.

"It was a pure grass fire that ran up to the edge of a loose urn paddock. Roughly 50 acres were burnt.

"We received calls about other fires in the area but these were false alarms from people who saw the smoke."

UPDATE 4.05PM: The CFA has issued an 'advice' warning for residents in the Tooborac and Pyalong areas after a grass fire has broken out in the area.

The fire is listed as Panyule Road.

The 'advice warning' said firefighters are responding to a fire seven kilometres East of Tooborac and eight kilometres north north east of Pyalong on the Panyule Road.
Smoke may be visible from nearby communities and roads.
People living in the district should review their fire plan and act accordingly.

UPDATE 3.53PM: The CFA has just declared the Ultima fire 'safe'.

It warns smoke may still be visible for some time yet.

UPDATE 3.40: Emergency services are on their way to a grass fire at Pompapiel near Serpentine.

UPDATE 2.55PM: Bendigo senior fire station officer Greg Stead addressed the media at the scene once the fire was put out, saying he believed a woman and a child lived at the house. 

"It's obviously devastating for the family who live here," he said.

"The house is extensively damaged.

"The side of the house has substantial fire damage but there is smoke and heat damage throughout the property.

"If you have Christmas lights you get out only once a year, check the leads regularly and always turn any electrical appliances off when you are not home because it has (leaving Christmas lights on) had a devastating effect here today."

UPDATE: The blaze destroyed the house and is believed to have been started by Christmas lights that were left on, Bendigo fire station officer Greg Stead said.  

"This is a timely reminder to turn off electrical appliances when you are not at home," he said. 

Mr Stead believed a woman and a child lived in the property.

"The fire began in the lounge room of the brick house," he said. 

"It took 15 minutes to get the fire under control.

"The fire did not damage any neighbouring properties." 

UPDATE 1.36pm: Traffic is being diverted in Houlahan Street, Flora Hill, as CFA crews battle a house fire.

Flames are coming from a back room in the house and police are on scene.

Click here to go to the full story.

UPDATE 1pm: The fire at Ultima has now been listed as 'controlled'.

The CFA sent 12 units to contain the fire.

UPDATE, 11.55am: At least nine CFA trucks are attending a grassfire at Ultima, between Swan Hill and Sea Lake.

Smoke will be visible from nearby communities and roads.
UPDATE 10.45am: Thankfully, it's relatively quiet on the fire front so far this morning but we need to be vigilant, things are starting to heat up.

The Country Fire Authority and Department of Environment and Primary Industries are continuing preparations for the bushfire season, with predictions for a hot summer.

Firefighter training was at Bendigo airport on Wednesday morning, with more than 50 people in attendance.

Check out Leigh Sharp's video and intern Kate Witherby's story on the training here

UPDATE 8AM: Authorities have declared another total fire ban in Bendigo and surrounding districts for Friday, with temperatures set to reach 41 degrees Celsius.

It will be Bendigo's fifth consecutive day with a maximum temperature over 30 degrees and its third consecutive day over 35.

Check back here for updates on fire activity during the day.

Unsure of your fire district - check your location here

What does a Total Fire Ban mean?

During a Total Fire Ban, subject to exceptions, no fire can be lit in the open air or be allowed to remain alight in the open air between midnight and 11.59pm.

QUESTION: Can I have a barbecue, light a campfire or light a fire for warmth or comfort?

YES: Barbecues that are fixed appliances. Fired by gas or electricity, being permanently fixed structures built of stone, metal, concrete or another non-flammable material designed exclusively for meal preparation.

Or barbecues that use only gas or electricity, are designed and commercially manufactured exclusively for meal preparation (including portable barbecues), and when alight are placed in a stable position, provided that: A/ the area within a distance of three metres from the outer perimeter of the barbecue is clear of flammable material. B/ you have either a hose connected to a water supply or a vessel with at least 10 litres of water for immediate use. C/ an adult is there at all times when the fire is alight who has the capacity and means to extinguish the fire. D/ The fire is completely extinguished before the adult leaves.

NO: campfires, fires for warmth or personal comfort are banned during Total Fire Ban days. Solid and liquid fuel barbecues and ovens are also banned during Total Fire Ban days.

QUESTION: I run a meal preparation business (eg. catering), or am a community/charitable/fundraising or similar organisation. Can I set up and light a fire to operate a barbecue or a spit at outdoor functions?

YES: But only if you have a written permit issued by CFA or MFB and you comply with the conditions of that permit. 

A community organisation, a charitable organisation or an organisation involved in fundraising (for example, a school or sporting group involved in fundraising) may apply for permission to light a fire to prepare meals for other people in the course of their business. These permits are issued by – and at the discretion of – local CFA District offices, CFA Headquarters or MFB Zone offices. Municipal Fire Prevention Officers cannot issue these permits.

QUESTION: Can I light a fire in the open air for burning off grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation? 

NO: All fires in the open air for burning off grass, scrub, stubble or rubbish are banned during Total Fire Ban Days.

Question: Can I drive a vehicle in places where the vehicle will be in contact with crops, grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation?

YES: But only if the vehicle is fitted with an efficient silencing device (eg. muffler) that takes all of the exhaust from the engine through the silencing device. This should be avoided wherever possible, due to the extreme fire danger posed by dry vegetation and very hot exhaust systems.

Question: Can I use self-propelled farm machinery, tractors, slashers, earth-moving, excavating or roadmaking machines propelled by a heat engine within nine metres of any crops, grass, stubble, weeds, undergrowth or other vegetation?

YES: However, if possible postpone this work as the risk of starting fires is extremely high.

Source: Country Fire Authority

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