Beach fires pose immense risk to surrounding bushland, properties

The Yacaaba Peninsula warning sign, near the pictured abandoned beach fire.

ILLEGAL beach fires are exacerbating the risk of wildfires this season, and Local Government has been called in to help heighten awareness.

“There’s risk to the dune vegetation, and to peoples’ properties near the beach,” Richard Streamer, President of the Winda Woppa Preservation Association, informed NOTA.

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“Recently, we saw tall flames from a fire situated directly underneath the trees.”

The bush that protects the sands of Jimmys and Bennetts Beaches in Hawks Nest is highly-flammable dry sclerophyll, including banksias, gums and tea-trees.

“Our local Bitou Buster volunteers pull weeds and plant native seedlings to regenerate the dunes, but embers from one fire on the Jimmys Beach Erosion Zone could wipe out precious vegetation, enabling more erosion,” Mr Streamer explained.

Improperly extinguished fires can also cause severe burns as unsuspecting beachgoers tread on embers just beneath surface sand.

“Any fire is subject to normal permits and conditions,” said Pindimar-Tea Gardens Rural Fire Service (RFS) Captain David Bright.

“We have had many calls for beach fires that haven’t been extinguished properly, forcing members to scour the beaches carrying an extinguisher.”

MidCoast Council, under whose jurisdiction the beaches fall, has confirmed that, “Lighting or having any form of fires on Council-managed Crown Land without a permit is illegal (except in formalised fire BBQ plates).”

The current lack of signage explicitly banning fires along Hawks Nest’s beaches was also put to Council.

“Our regulatory signage upon entry to beaches, parks and reserves advise users of what’s permitted and prohibited within that space, however the ‘No Fires’ prohibition should be (there).

“We are in the process of rolling out new signage across the LGA,” responded Council.

“In the interim Council have ordered decals put on the beach access signage along Jimmys Beach where issues have been occurring.”

The RFS statutory Bush Fire Danger Period, which runs from 1 October to 31 March, mandates a fire permit anyway, and this should always be forefront in everyone’s minds.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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