WORKING HARD: Rural Fire Service volunteers are making great progress preparing for the next fire season. Photo: David Anthony
WORKING HARD: Rural Fire Service volunteers are making great progress preparing for the next fire season. Photo: David Anthony

Fireys make progress with Operation Cool Burn to protect CQ

WITH memories of Australia's horror bushfire season still fresh in their minds, CQ's firefighters have redoubled their efforts to prepare for the coming fire season.

Running between April and August annually, Operation Cool Burn involves QFES, its partner agencies and landholders conducting various bushfire mitigation activities to give firefighters the upper hand.

QFES Rural Fire Service regional manager for the Central Region Brian Smith said QFES was a core member of Rockhampton and Livingstone council's Local Disaster Management groups.

These LDMGs have hosted fire meetings where they have identified a number of high risk areas known as "hot spots".

HAZARD MITIGATION: QFES Superintendent Brian Smith said they were making good progress towards reducing the threat of bushfires in the Rockhampton region.
HAZARD MITIGATION: QFES Superintendent Brian Smith said they were making good progress towards reducing the threat of bushfires in the Rockhampton region.

"We have been working with the partner agencies, local brigades and landowners to conduct hazard reduction activities in those areas," Supt Smith said.

"That can include hazard reduction burning, mechanical slashing, mechanical (fire) breaks and community education.

"It's also putting in strategic breaks and identifying areas of high risk where we can do letter drops and community ­information days."

In addition to cool burns conducted in the Mount Archer area, around Byfield and in Norman Gardens, Supt Smith said they were working with the region's larger private landowners and the Shoalwater Bay Military Training Area.

He estimated 60 per cent of their hazard mitigation activities were completed.

"We are hopeful of having all those activities completed in those high risk areas by the first of August," he said.

Provided the weather conditions remained favourable, Supt Smith was confident they would meet their August deadline.

"It's not the size of the burn that's important, it's where it's located, how close that is to infrastructure and what sort of risk reduction that does achieve," he said.

"Often we're not trying to burn out completely, we're just trying to reduce the fuel loads in those high risk areas.

"If we aren't able to undertake those activities and mitigate that risk, we will have a meeting prior to the start of the fire season, and we'll identify response activities into that area - what we can do to prepare and respond to those locations if we do have a fire."

FIRE BATTLE: The Caves Rural Fire Service firefighter Anthony Carter shared this photo of the blaze burning at Old Byfield Rd, Cobraball last year.
FIRE BATTLE: The Caves Rural Fire Service firefighter Anthony Carter shared this photo of the blaze burning at Old Byfield Rd, Cobraball last year.

He urged residents to take advantage of the ideal weather conditions and begin ­preparing for the coming fire season to allow fire crews to assist in a bushfire situation.

"It is a shared responsibility between the property owners and the agencies," he said.

"Everyone has a bushfire risk in their location that they need to address and if they are unable to do that or are unsure, they can seek advice from their local fire warden or local rural fire brigade.

"They need to clear their properties around their infrastructure to allow access for our vehicles, trim back their vegetation, clean their gutters, and mow their lawns."

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said there was a significant increase in the number of permitted burns conducted in the lead-up to the 2019 bushfire season.

"In the 2018-19 financial year, QFES data shows the total Permit to Light Fire activations was more than 26,600 - up by nearly 400 from the previous financial year," Mr Crawford said.

QFES Commissioner Greg Leach said QFES assisted and supported landholders and partner agencies to conduct burns where possible to take advantage of favourable weather conditions.

"We encourage private landholders to conduct mitigation activities on their own land and we will continue to provide advice and assistance to support them," Mr Leach said.

"Landholders interested in conducting a burn on their own land should remember to apply for a Permit to Light Fire, which is available at no cost through their local fire warden.

"Residents should ensure they equip themselves with their own tools such as an up-to-date Bushfire Survival Plan so they know what they will do if a bushfire threatens their area.

"It is also important to know where to find accurate information by using the QFES website and social media pages and listen to the advice of authorities."

For more information please visit ruralfire.qld.gov.au.