Country Fire Authority suspects grassfires around Ararat and St Arnaud caused by farm burn-offs reignited by wind

The Country Fire Authority suspects that grassfires around Ararat and St Arnaud this week were caused by farm burn-offs that reignited due to strong winds.

Country Fire Authority District 16 operations manager Bernie Fradd said most of the burn-offs appear to have been carried out within permit requirements.

“There are some fires that are still under investigation, but predominately they were permit burns or burning activities,” he said.

“When the strong winds came overnight, some fires escaped. There had been lawful burns and then people had thought they had extinguished the burns.

“Preliminary investigations show that people had taken precautions and then the middle of the night the strong wind came up.

“It was mostly where grass and trash had been blown against the corners of fences.” 

Mr Fradd said police also attended fire at Carapooee.

“My understanding is that the owner of the land was inspecting the fire when it broke away just at the other end of the burn,” Mr Fradd said.

“There were some trees that caught fire at the sides of the road, and the wind blew the embers outside the burnt area.”

At least 19 vehicles attended a grassfire near the intersection of Kooreh and Marchment roads, south-east of St Arnaud on Wednesday afternoon.

There was also a smaller fire to the south on Marchment Road.

Firefighters were busy around the Ararat region early on Thursday morning with multiple grassfires as a low pressure trough and high winds approached from South Australia.

The largest incident was near the Western Highway and Hillside Road turnoff at Dobie, east of Ararat, where 19 firefighting vehicles spent about 90 minutes bringing a grassfire under control after it was first reported at 11:48pm on Wednesday.

Firefighters were also called to a grassfire at Back Bolac Road, Willaura at 1.23am on Thursday, which took three vehicles about 40 minutes to bring under control.

There were also grassfires reported at Tatyoon Road, Mininera just after 2am and at McInnes Lane, Lake Bolac just before 3am.

Mr Fradd recommended to landowners planning a burn-off that they check the weather forecast for the days after a fire.

“When people are lighting a fires, they should take into account the weather that’s coming as well as the small window when they are doing the burning,” he said.

“A lot of people do, a lot of people look at the days ahead and choose whether to burn off or not based on that.

“There might be a really good day on a Friday where you could burn quite safely but if there was significant weather forecast for Sunday, you’d have to think whether the fire would be fully extinguished by then.”