Bushfires

Important information about bushfire safety and prevention in Baw Baw Shire.

General Bushfire Information

Bushfire and grassfires are a part of the landscape. They are more likely and a higher risk during the warmer months. It is impossible to totally avoid them, however, as a community everyone can prepare to reduce the risk and impact of a fire. During this time it is important that everyone complies with the fire restrictions.

Fire awareness and preparedness information is available from many sources including: 

You are encouraged to seek out the information that is appropriate for you.  

We recommend you consider the following when preparing for the bushfire season:

  • Learn about the bushfire prone areas
  • Develop a bushfire plan for your assets i.e home, farm, or business
  • Learn about fire prevention and what you need to do
  • Download the VicEmergency App and set your watch zones
  • Listen to local weather forecasts and reports

Preparing Your Property

What you can do

To prepare your property against fire, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the fuels.

Fuel is the material required to maintain a fire burning. Fuels include grass, plants, leaf litter, bark, sticks, twigs and other debris. If allowed to build up, they can increase the available material to burn during a fire. 

  • Maintain at least 30 metres of defendable space around your dwelling.
  • Keep lawn areas around your home well maintained to between 50mm and 100mm in length.
  • Maintain gardens.
  • Removing undergrowth, fallen branches and tree cuttings. 

For more information about how you can maintain your property visit the CFA website

You may also be able to remove vegetation including trees on your property without a planning permit within 10 metres of an existing building used for accommodation or clear vegetation (not including trees) up to 50 metres if your property is covered by a Bushfire Management Overlay (for more information, see the Bushfire Management Overlay Section of this webpage). 

For more information, please see Bushfire Protection Vegetation Exemptions

If you own a property in, but live outside of Baw Baw Shire here are some simple steps you can take to protect your property:

  • Regularly visit your property to carry out maintenance to ensure it is prepared. 
  • If you are unable to visit your property, consider what options you have to maintain your property.
  • If you engage a contractor, ensure that the work is completed to your satisfaction – requesting before and after photos is good practice.
  • Ask your family, friends, or a neighbour to assist you.
  • Engage a local contractor to undertake maintenance work.

All works should be maintained throughout the declared Fire Danger Period. However, it should be everyone’s responsibility to maintain their property throughout the year.

What Does Council Do to Prevent Bushfire Risk?

Bushfire risk mitigation works

Bushfire prevention is always our main goal.

Fuel reduction

  • Routine mowing and fuel load reductions in parks and open spaces

Planned burns

  • Planned burns to reduce fuel loads are planned and managed by CFA with the authority of Council.

Fire Hazard Inspections

This program aims to reduce bushfire risk to the community, reduce fire spread and intensity in the event of a bushfire and fulfil relevant legislative obligations.

In accordance with the CFA Act, Council has a duty to take all practicable steps to prevent fires and minimise the danger and spread of fires on any Council land.

For privately owned land, Council carries out annual inspections during the declared Fire Danger Period. Where necessary, Council will issue Fire Prevention Notices (FPN) directing landowners or occupiers to remove or clean up vegetation or other combustible materials.

Where landowners or occupiers fail to comply, Council can carry out the specified works at the cost of the landowner, issue an infringement notice and even prosecute for breaches under the CFA Act. Serious penalties including imprisonment can apply in extreme cases.

Fire reduction works on land owned by State Government and other agencies is responsibility of that department.

For more information, see the next section of this webpage titled Fire Hazard Inspection Program.

Raising community awareness

Community education and prevention is always our first approach, with penalties and enforcement the least preferred option. Bushfire prevention takes a whole community approach and is everyone’s responsibility.

Ways we educate and raise awareness:

  • Safety messaging and notification of the declared Fire Danger Period in newspapers, radio, online and social media
  • Send information to residents outlining responsibilities and ways to prepare for the Fire Danger Period
  • Mail outs with key information from Council, CFA and the Department of Health and Human Services
  • Permanent safety signage on roadsides and across the region
  • Staff training to ensure they can appropriately answer community questions, provide advice and where necessary, assist the community in the event of a fire emergency

Emergency infrastructure

We provide and maintain a wide variety of infrastructure to assist in the event of a bushfire emergency.

  • 19 concrete and/or colorbond water tanks (22,500-45,000 litres) for CFA firefighting purposes
  • 10 fire access roads to join key areas, provide alternate access and reduced travel times
  • One purpose-built helipad at Walhalla for firefighting aircraft, Police and Air Ambulance
  • Permanent safety signage on roadsides and across the region

Local laws and open-air burning

  • Restrictions and conditions apply to open air burning to ensure the community, environment and property is kept safe.
  • Different restrictions to open-air burning apply to different property types across Baw Baw Shire i.e. residential, low density residential and rural property owners and occupiers.
  • Where permits and restrictions apply, it is the resident’s responsibility to abide by the relevant requirements and restrictions.

Strategies and plans

Along with emergency services and government agencies, Councils help coordinate various strategic plans to guide work in this space including the Municipal Emergency Management Plan, Municipal Fire Prevention Plan along with risk-specific sub-plans.

When bushfire strikes

In the event of a bushfire, Councils are there to support emergency services and assist in community relief and recovery, as soon as it is safe to do so.

Emergency Relief Centres

If an emergency is deemed severe enough, under the direction of the incident controller, Council will set up an Emergency Relief Centre, or an ERC. ERCs seek to provide a safe place where support can be provided to those who are displaced - either due to being evacuated, being unable to return home, or because they have damaged and destroyed property.

At an ERC, impacted residents can access food, water and shelter, information and updates about the emergency situation, as well as emotional, financial and other support from relevant agencies. ERCs are available for as long as they are needed while other longer-term accommodation is organised.

Recovery

Once the emergency has passed and the bushfire threat is gone Council leads recovery with affected communities. Recovery can continue for months and even years after an emergency.

Recovery activities are wide and varied encompassing four main themes:

  • Social – Supporting people, housing and accommodation, psycho-social support, health and medical assistance and community development.
  • Built – Buildings and assets, energy services, telecommunications, transport, waste and water.
  • Natural – Land and waterways, plans and wildlife damage or loss, cultural and heritage sites.
  • Economical – Supporting tourism, local businesses and agriculture.

Fire Hazard Inspection Program

Council has obligations under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to take all practicable steps to prevent the occurrence of fires and minimise the danger from the spread of fires in Baw Baw Shire.

Council has adopted the Fire Risk Reduction Strategy that identifies the most at-risk land to communities within Baw Baw Shire. The data from Victorian Fire Risk Register (VFRR) has been used in the development of the strategy. Council conducts a Fire Hazard Inspection Program to manage the risk of fire to the community (including on private land) throughout the Fire Danger Period.

For more information on the VFRR, please visit the VFRR website.

What you can do

The preceding page, 'Preparing Your Property', contains information on what you can do on your property.   

What we will do

Council sends out courtesy information letters to the owners of vacant land and owners of properties, within areas that have been identified using the Victorian Fire Risk Register (VFRR).

The purpose of these letters is to support land owners by providing information and education regarding property maintenance that reduces the likelihood of fire spreading to adjoining properties. Simple advice is provided in relation to creating a reduced fuel buffer.  

Below is an example for Yarragon (Figure 1), the properties highlighted in the purple, green and tan shading are sent the courtesy letter. 

Illustrative map using Yarragon township as an example. Outer zones highlighted in green and brown to indicate buffer regions subject to inspection. Inner zones are highlighted purple to indicate homes which may be subject to radiant heat from bushfires.

Firgure 1: Yarragon Township/Built-up fuel buffer area with identified properties 

Fire Hazard Inspections

If your property is not prepared or maintained for the fire season, your property may be subject to an inspection and you may be issued a Fire Prevention Notice in accordance with the Country Fire Authority Act 1958. All individual owners of your property will be issued a Fire Prevention Notice.

A Fire Prevention Notice will specify fuel reduction works that you are required to undertake and the time frame in which the works must be completed. If you do not follow the directions, each individual owner will be issued a Fire Prevention Infringement Notice. Council may also arrange for the fuel reduction works to be completed at your cost.

For more information, please contact the Municipal Fire Prevention Officer during office hours on 1300 229 229.

Bushfire Management Overlay

 

The Victorian Government is acting to make new homes, our communities and the environment safer from bushfires. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has reviewed and updated bushfire hazard mapping in the planning scheme. This mapping updates the Bushfire Management Overlay (BMO) and has been done in partnership with the Country Fire Authority and Baw Baw Shire Council.

The update was a key recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, and ensures consistent bushfire mapping and planning policies apply across the state. These mapping changes apply criteria developed by the Victorian Government, the CFA and CSIRO.

As part of this state-wide review, bushfire planning controls have been applied to some properties (affected properties will be notified by mail). While existing homes and approved developments are not required to make changes, in future, you may require a planning permit to subdivide your land, build a new house or significantly extend an existing house under the BMO planning control.

This planning permit will ensure that bushfire hazards such as vegetation, slope and site access are assessed, and that safety measures are in place to manage bushfire risk. This is in addition to the requirements of other planning controls that may already apply to your property.

For properties in an area with the potential to be affected by extreme bushfires, it is strongly recommended that owners have a bushfire survival plan in place, obtain advice on appropriate building insurance, and prepare their home and property to manage bushfire risk.

For more information on the update, to understand how the planning controls apply to other parts of our community, and to understand how to best protect your property for bushfire, please visit the Victorian Government Bushfire Management Overly website or contact Council on 1300 229 229 for an information pack.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can I check if I’m in the BMO?

The State Government’s VicPlan mapping tool can be used to check the zone and overlays applying to a property, including the BMO.

Why didn’t I receive notice before the BMO was applied to my property?

The changes to the BMO are about making new homes, our communities and the environment safer and more resilient to bushfire. The changes respond to the 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission - recommendation 37.

The mapping update is based on the identification of extreme bushfire hazards by DELWP, fire authorities and council.

No public consultation was undertaken prior to the maps being introduced to avoid any potential for uncertainty and confusion about the mapping criteria and the technical nature of bushfire risk.

Where can I get more information about the BMO and why it’s been applied to my property?

DELWP has created a webpage specifically for the introduction of the updated BMO mapping. 

The page has detailed information for landowners, including fact sheets, information on mapping criteria, and planning permit requirements.

If there are specific questions that the webpage doesn’t answer, please contact one of our planning officers.

Can I appeal if I don’t think my property should be included in the BMO?

DELWP has a process in place to review the mapping on a regular basis in partnership with fire authorities and council.

If you think your land may not meet the mapping criteria you should contact our planning department for advice. If council planning officers agree that your land may not meet the criteria, DELWP may undertake a review. 

Land that meets the criteria will not be removed.

Do I have to retrofit my existing home?

While the BMO does not apply retrospectively to existing homes or approved developments, including subdivision, it is recommended that all property owners and occupiers take steps to improve the resilience of their property to bushfire.

The CFA website has information on making homes and properties safer. You can prepare a Fire Ready Kit. 

What does it mean if my property has been included in the BMO? Do I need a planning permit to build now?

If the BMO applies, a planning permit may be needed to subdivide your land, build a new house or extend an existing house by more than 50% of the existing floor area.

Other types of buildings and new uses may also need a planning permit. 

Please speak to council officers to discuss planning permit requirements and processes.

What will the planning permit require me to do?

If a planning permit is required under the BMO, in addition to any other planning controls, you will need to meet specific bushfire application requirements. This may include completing bushfire site hazard and bushfire landscape assessments.

A planning permit may be granted by council once you have demonstrated that your proposed development meets the relevant application requirements and implements appropriate protection measures to manage bushfire risk.

Technical Guide: Planning Permit Applications - Bushfire Management Overlay details the process for preparing a planning permit application.

What bushfire protection measures will be required in the BMO?

Although bushfire risk varies across our region, the bushfire protection measures in the BMO require future developments and uses to:

  • Build to current bushfire construction standards
  • Site the building away from the bushfire hazards
  • Manage vegetation and fuel loads
  • Install water tanks and provide fire truck access
  • Refer your plan to the CFA, if required

A mandatory planning permit condition will require these measures to be implemented and maintained at all times by the landowner.

Vulnerable uses and developments such as schools and childcare facilities, and proposals in areas with significant landscape risk, may require additional bushfire protection measures. In these cases, broader landscape issues such as evacuation and availability of safer places must be considered as part of the planning permit process.

Are there any planning permit exemptions?

There are some exemptions from applying for a planning permit under the BMO, including:

  • Extensions to existing homes less than 50% of the existing floor area, and
  • Construction of certain outbuildings, such as a shed or garage, if less than 100 square metres.

Other exemptions may apply for some uses and development. You can check with local council officers to see if exemptions apply.

What if I already have a planning or building permit?

Approved planning permits will continue to operate until expiry.

If there is an approved building permit but no planning permit, or you are proposing to extend or amend an existing planning permit, you can view the Transitional Provisions Fact Sheet. You can also check with our planning department.

What does it mean if only part of my land is included in the updated mapping?

The mapping is based on bushfire hazards, not property boundaries. 

It is common for properties to only be partially included in the BMO.

The BMO planning requirements are only triggered if new development is proposed on the part of a property that is in the BMO.

Will this cost me more?

Bushfire construction standards already apply to Bushfire Prone Areas under the Building Act and regulations. The bushfire protection measures required under the planning system are unlikely to substantially increase development costs.

There may be some costs associated with preparing bushfire hazard assessments and site plans. Standard planning permit application fees will also apply.

BMO schedules have been prepared for some townships and settlements by DELWP, the CFA and local councils. These remove certain application requirements, such as a bushfire hazard assessment. This may further reduce application costs for permit applicants.

The State Government’s VicPlan mapping tool can be used to check if a BMO schedule applies to your a property.

What is a BMO schedule and what does it do?

 A schedule to the BMO specifies bushfire protection measures for new homes based on local bushfire risk. Schedules have been developed by DELWP, the CFA and local councils. They include predetermined protection measures, streamlined rules, and reduced application requirements for new homes.

Landowners can use the bushfire protection measures predetermined in a schedule or choose to use the regular BMO process.

fact sheet has been developed for each affected township that explains the schedules and application requirements.

What if I am in an urban, suburban, township area or rural living area?

The BMO includes streamlined application requirements for new homes in urban, suburban, township and rural living areas based on the zoning of land. These streamlined rules apply across Victoria, and make it simpler to identify the bushfire protection measures that need to be provided for a new home.

Protecting your tank water

When bushfires threaten Gippsland, follow these steps to protect your water tank from contamination:

  • Be prepared to take action to divert water from the roof before it gets into the tank by having a plan for how you can go about disconnecting the tanks inflow pipe(s).
  • Consider installing and maintaining a first-flush diversion device. This is available from local hardware and plumbing suppliers.
  • If you are away, have someone organised to implement your tank water diversion plan.
  • Monitor how close the fire is, look for evidence of dust and smoke.
  • Leave the tank isolated as long as there is smoke etc in the air.
  • Wait for rain to wash your roof and flush the collection system.
  • Reconnect pipes or switch off diverter.

Sometimes fires from outside of the region cause smoke to travel into Baw Baw Shire. This may result in tainting of tank water with a smoky and dusty taste. This is caused by the same dust accumulations you see on your car after rain and is a short-term issue. There are no health implications from using this water for general household uses, including drinking.

For more information on diverting your water tank, contact your local plumber or go the Better Health Channel website.