Despite "horrific, unprecedented" fires just months ago, there is no need to extend the 2019-20 Bush Fire Danger Period for the Mid-Western Regional Council area beyond March 31 - thanks to cooler weather and above average rainfall.
For the last few years, the season - which usually runs from October to March - has been extended in the local Cudgegong Rural Fire Service District to include the month of April.
However, the reduced bush fire threat brought on by above average rainfall - illustrated well in Mudgee overnight prior to Monday morning - means that this step won't be necessary in 2020.
Ending the Bush Fire Danger Period also removes the need for landholders to get a permit from the NSW RFS prior to burning off.
"The conditions that have made this possible are good news after the horrific, unprecedented fires experienced in the past five months by our district and, indeed, by so much of NSW," Cudgegong District Superintendent Troy Porter said.
"I want to emphasise, however, that ending the Bush Fire Danger Period does not mean we no longer face the risk of bush fires.
"While the Bureau of Meteorology recorded above average rainfall totals at the Mudgee Airport in both February and March, other parts of our district received substantially less rainfall. And wonderful as it is to see our paddocks turn from dusty brown to brilliant green, that fresh growth can dry out and add to our region's still substantial bush fire fuel load as we move into autumn.
"That's why it is so important for residents and landholders to avoid becoming complacent, to remain aware of the fire threats we still face and to comply with the requirements that remain in place even though the need for fire permits has ended until our next fire season.
"The beginning of this month marked the first time since early July 2019 without active bush or grass fires in NSW, ending more than 240 days of fire activity in the state. But single trees set alight in our region by lightning from a series of recent thunderstorms could have grown into dangerous bush fires if alert residents had not sounded a timely alarm so NSW RFS crews could respond promptly.
"We need that kind of watchful response to continue so our volunteers can get to a fire while it's still small. Please don't feel embarrassed to ring Triple Zero (000) if you see an unexpected column of smoke or an unattended fire."
If you plan to burn off, he asks that you should check the NSW RFS website for what you are required to do before lighting up. These requirements include;
- Checking whether it's a Total Fire Ban day;
- Notifying your neighbours and the Cudgegong District Fire Control Centre at least 24 hours;
- Finding out [from the Fire Control Centre] whether you require any environmental approvals;
- Organising to have a source of water on hand and clearing a fire break around the burn site to help keep your fire from escaping;
- Monitoring your fire from the time you light up until it is safely extinguished.
- If your fire escapes, ring Triple Zero (000) immediately.
These and other required measures are designed to make your planned fire as safe as possible and to avoid unnecessary emergency response by making sure agencies like the NSW RFS know when and where a burn is planned.
"Heavy fines apply for the unsafe use of fire or if your fire escapes," Superintendent Porter said.
"Landholders who fail to notify firefighting agencies such as the NSW RFS or who do not notify their neighbours face fines up to $5,500 and/or 12 months in jail, while escaped fires attract penalties of up to $110,000 and/or five years in prison.
"Don't be a fire risk to your community. Know and comply with your obligations. The last thing our volunteer firefighters need is to be responding to a fire carelessly maintained by a landholder, but if your fire does escape make sure you report it immediately to Triple Zero (000)."
As of Monday afternoon, the Mudgee Airport weather station has recorded 145.8mm for March (compared to a monthly average of 59.2mm) and 94.4mm for February (average 70mm). With the three-month outlook suggesting that a wetter than average autumn could be likely.