COVID-19: Hazard reduction burns put on hold due to pandemic

HALT ON BURNS: The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to planned hazard reduction burns across the state for NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters. Photo: FILE
HALT ON BURNS: The coronavirus pandemic has put a stop to planned hazard reduction burns across the state for NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters. Photo: FILE

APRIL is usually a time when the region's volunteer firefighters can breath a sigh of relief and start planning ahead to help keep communities safe. Not this year.

Bushfire danger period comes to an end on March 31, and this year it follows one of the toughest and heartbreaking seasons on record.

Usually, at this time of year, firefighters are busy planning and conducting hazard reduction burns across the region to help reduce fuel loads ahead of next summer, but coronavirus has put a stop to that.

NSW Rural Fire Service operational officer Brett Taylor said COVID-19 was having a big impact on what firefighers can do.

"If it wasn't for coronavirus we'd be doing a lot of hazard reductions and training to up-skill our members," he said.

But, government regulations surrounding non-essential gatherings have put a stop to these activities for time being.

If it wasn't for coronavirus we'd be doing a lot of hazard reductions and training to up-skill our members.

NSW Rural Fire Service operational officer Brett Taylor

"Unless it's deemed essential all the training has been postponed," he said.

"But, if we get called to an emergency we'll still respond."

Community engagement activities, including school visits, have also been cancelled.

The end of bushfire danger period also means that permits to burn-off are no longer required for landholders, however, other rules remain in place.

Before lighting a fire you must contact your RFS fire control centre at least 24 hours before the planned burn.

Adjoining neighbours must also be given the same amount of notice, and your local council must be contacted to determine whether an approval is required in your area.

During the 2019/20 bushfire danger period in NSW, more than 2400 homes were lost, there were more than 11,2000 bush and grass fires and 5.4 million hectares were burnt.

"Twenty-five lives have been taken by fire this bushfire season," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said during the recent State Memorial for those affected by the recent bushfires.

"Each one of those is a story of grief, profound loss and great sadness - of lives cut short and of families being changed forever.

"Nans and pops, mums and dads, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters - loved ones, colleagues and mates - all much loved and valued members of our community.

"Each one, will remain a reminder of the terrible events of this bushfire season."

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This story Virus is extinguishing RFS burn-off plans to protect community first appeared on Lithgow Mercury.