Unkempt pieces of grass raise concerns about fires

Unkempt pieces of grass raise concerns about fires

Written by Corey Everett

Bunyip residents are demanding action against a fire risk in the city centre, after frustration boiled over the council’s alleged inaction.

There are two empty lots within the residential core of Bunyip that are currently overgrown to the point where the grass is more than a meter high.

Each parcel is located off Sarah Hansen Lane, one bordering Abeket Road to the north and the other bordering Mary Street to the south.

Nearby residents, Joan and Bobbi Levin, have seen these lots keep growing, raising concerns about fire danger in the summer months.

“The council’s inaction has been ignoring us and we have had to go after them every year,” Joanne said.

“Especially since the Bunyip fires, people have become very aware of precautions, and we are anticipating a very hot summer this year.”

The biggest concern is the potential danger posed by too many fires.

Joan and Bobby grow worried as fire season approaches. Their fears are compounded by their own experience with grass fires.

Before moving to Bunyip, they lived on farmland north of Melbourne, where a grass fire caused by untidy grass swept through their area.

“We were impressed when we were on the ground and the grass fire, it took like wildfire,” Joan said.

“I lifted a tree and it formed a fireball and landed in the middle of a neighbor’s field.”

The move to Bunyip was not spared from fire threats, as they would be evacuated during the 2019 Bunyip fires where they helped with community relief work.

However, fears have turned to frustration as they cannot seem to convince officials to take on the simple task of mowing a patch of overgrown land.

“I told them, ‘I can’t even handle it,’” Joan recalled during her conversations with Cardinia Shire Council in the middle of this year.

“And I was told that would be trespassing anyway.”

The council advises the community to prepare ahead of fire seasons to keep grass under 10cm, and they have fire prevention officers carrying out inspections to enforce such rules. If a property is found to be in violation, the owner receives a fire prevention notice advising them which hazards must be eliminated within a certain time frame.

If the owner fails to do as directed, they can receive a fine of up to $1,923 and contractors will be required to complete the necessary work at the owner’s expense.

Joan raised this policy with the council.

“We thought if that was the case, we would stay on their backs when it was over ten centimetres, and when that happened they said they had no case to answer,” Joanne said.

“Unless things change in schools today it seems more than ten centimetres.

“Well, I was a little confused because they don’t even adhere to or follow their own legislation and rules.

“We just abandoned the council because it was an insult to talk to them.”

Owen Hardidge, Kardinia Shire Council’s director of regulatory services, said inspections begin this month.

“As part of Cardinia Shire Council’s annual fire risk inspection programme, we inspect all properties within high-risk bushfire areas, as well as following up on specific complaints from residents,” Mr Hardidge said.

“Our fire risk inspection program is carried out every year from November to March.

“In 2023, 4,585 properties were inspected as part of this program, and 708 fire prevention notices were issued. From these notices, the council found 89 properties to be non-complaintable.

Mr Hardidge explained that residents can prepare for fire season by:

· Trim all grass and weeds on your building to a height of less than 10 cm, and make sure to maintain this height during the fire danger period.

· Remove fallen branches and dead plants from around your property.

· Clean up fine fuel such as leaves, twigs and tall grass and remove any rubbish.

· Establish a firebreak on larger rural properties at least 10 meters wide, along external fences by cutting grass and weeds to less than 10 centimetres.

“Before any works are completed, residents should review native plants and planning permit requirements,” Hardidge said.

He said if residents identify a property they believe is at risk of fire, please make a report to council via 1300 787 624 or email mail@cardinia.vic.gov.au

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