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Campfire safety warning this Christmas

Saturday 22 December, 2012

Campers and day-trippers this Christmas period are being warned that unattended campfires can quickly turn into bushfires.

Minister for Environment and Climate Change Ryan Smith said every holiday period Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Parks Victoria officers see a spate of campfires in national parks and state forests left unattended or not put out properly, that in the right conditions could quickly flare up.

"About 10 per cent of fires in Victoria’s parks and forests are started by campfire escapes, and that’s 10 per cent of bushfires that could have been prevented," Mr Smith said.

"Many parts of the state are drier this year than in the past couple of years and with a bit of wind, sparks can carry and start a bushfire quickly."

The key things people need to do when having a campfire are:

  • Check restrictions for the area – campfires are not allowed in some areas of public land and are prohibited on a Total Fire Ban day.
  • Always use a purpose built fireplace where provided.
  • If there are no restrictions on campfires and in the absence of a fireplace, campfires should be lit in a 30 centimetre trench, with an area of three metre radius cleared of vegetation and other flammable materials.
  • Take care on dry, windy days – if the wind is strong enough to carry sparks, don’t light a campfire.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended.
  • Keep your campfire just big enough for cooking and keeping warm.
  • Put your fire out properly using water, not soil, even if you are going for a short walk or swim.
  • If your campfire is cool to touch it is safe to leave.

Mr Smith said while campfires were part of the outdoor experience, if not used properly they could cause a massive amount of destruction.

"Another option for cooking is using fuel stoves, as they are cleaner, cook faster and don’t leave a mark on the landscape," Mr Smith said.

"If you need clarification about what you can or can’t do with your campfire, contact the DSE or Parks Victoria office closest to where you plan to camp."

For information on burns and fires in Victoria and general fire safety advice, please contact the Victorian Bushfire Information Life on freecall 1800 240 667. Callers who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech/communication impairment may call textphone/telewriter (TTY) on 1800 122 969.