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Many complex arrangements exist within the State regarding responsibilities for fire prevention on different lands. The following information gives a general overview of different agencies’ responsibilities for fire prevention.

You should be aware that in particular areas there may be variations to this general overview. Contact your local CFA Region office or your local council to clarify any local arrangements.

Council

Fire Prevention is a statutory responsibility of all municipal councils where the municipal district or part of the municipal district is in the country area of Victoria. Section 43 of the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (CFA Act) states 'it is the duty of every municipal council and public authority to take all practical steps (including burning) to prevent the occurrence of fires on, and minimise the danger of the spread of fires on and from – any land vested in it or under its control or management; and any road under its care and management'.

Under the CFA Act, each municipal council must appoint a Municipal Fire Prevention Officer (MFPO) and may appoint Assistant Fire Prevention Officers (AFPOs). Fire Prevention Officers have the power to assess fire threats to life or property in their municipal district, and if necessary, issue fire prevention notices on owners or occupiers of land requiring them to take specified steps to remove or minimise that threat.

Where a person fails to carry out the work required by a fire prevention notice, under the CFA Act councils may initiate proceedings for an offence or serve a fire prevention infringement notice. In addition, under the Local Government Act 1989, councils or persons approved by them may enter private lands and undertake the works required by the notice. Councils can then recover costs from the landowner/occupier for that work.

Under the CFA Act, MFPOs, AFPOs (or CFA) may also consider applications and issue permits to burn during declared fire danger periods. Victoria Police are responsible for undertaking prosecutions for illegal burning without a permit during the Fire Danger Period or a day of Total Fire Ban. The police have prosecution powers relating to fire under the CFA Act, the Crimes Act 1958 and the Summary Offences Act 1966.

Councils may also have local laws about lighting fires within their municipal district.

More info: Municipal Association of Victoria

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CFA

In the country area of Victoria CFA provides policy, planning, leadership, standards for training and best practice advice in municipal fire prevention. CFA is represented on Municipal Emergency Management Committees and relevant sub-committees established in relation to fire management and prevention.

The CFA Act defines the country area of Victoria as 'that part of Victoria which lies outside the metropolitan fire district but does not include any forest, national park or protected public land'.

CFA arbitrates appeals against fire prevention notices issued by councils and under limited circumstances, can issue fire prevention notices.

CFA declares the Fire Danger Period for each municipality (shire or council) within the country area of Victoria at different times in the lead up to the fire season. It depends on the amount of rain, grassland curing rate and other local conditions. In declared Fire Danger Periods, CFA restricts the use of fire in the community. A Total Fire Ban can also be declared by CFA for the whole or part of Victoria at any time of year, on days when fires are likely to spread rapidly and could be difficult to control.

Under the CFA Act, CFA may consider applications and issue permits to burn during a Fire Danger Period or permits to light a fire in the open air for specified purposes under specific controls on a day of Total Fire Ban.

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Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP)

DELWP is solely responsible for fire prevention and management in fire protected areas – State forests, national parks and protected public lands under the Forests Act 1958. Some private lands adjoining these public lands (within 1.5km) are also fire protected areas, and the lighting of fires in these areas during a period of fire restrictions is controlled by the Forests Act and the Forests (Fire Protection) Regulations 2014.

The period of fire restrictions under the Forests Act and Regulations is called the Prohibited Period. The prohibited period for State forests, national parks and protected public land is all year round. The prohibited period for private land within the fire protected area adjoining the public lands is seasonal, generally the time of year when risk of bushfire ignitions is higher – like the Fire Danger Period declared under the CFA Act.

In fire protected areas during a Prohibited Period, an authorised officer must provide written authority for fires to be lit. This 'permit' is issued by DELWP under the Forests Act and Regulations, not CFA or a council fire prevention officer. DELWP may also consider applications and issue permits to light a fire in the open air in fire protected areas, for specified purposes on a day of Total Fire Ban under the CFA Act. The Total Fire Ban permits in the fire protected areas cannot be issued by CFA.

More info: DELWP Forest Fire Management Victoria

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Other Stakeholders

Section 43 of the CFA Act states 'it is the duty of every municipal council and public authority to take all practical steps (including burning) to prevent the occurrence of fires on, and minimise the danger of the spread of fires on and from – any land vested in it or under its control or management: and any road under its care and management'.

The definition of public authority for the purposes of the CFA Act is:
"public authority means any board commission trust or other body corporate or unincorporate established or constituted by or under any Act for any public purpose, whether in respect of the whole or any part of Victoria but does not include a municipal council."

Power Companies

Power companies are required to prepare Bushfire Mitigation Plans as outlined in the Electricity Safety Act 1998. They are also required to prepare an annual management plan pursuant to the Electricity Safety (Electric Line Clearance) Regulations 2015. The minimum vegetation clearance requirements for powerlines are detailed in the Code of Practice for the Regulations. The clearance distances are calculated based on a range of factors including whether the powerline is in a hazardous or low bushfire risk area; whether the powerline is high or low voltage; and the length of the section of powerline between power poles Energy Safe Victoria - Electrical oversees and regulates these functions.

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Railways

Railway governance and management arrangements are complex in Victoria. Put simply Victorian Rail Track Corporation (Vic Track) and V/Line are public authorities, and as such have responsibilities under section 43 of the CFA Act for fire prevention and mitigation activities on rail lines. Through lease agreements and franchising arrangements these authorities discharge their responsibilities through private rail companies who in turn contract out maintenance arrangements. Fire Prevention Notices cannot be served upon public authorities.

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Water Corporations

Arrangements in this area are complex due to a mix of several organisations having responsibility for the provision of water. All Water Corporations established under section 85 of the Water Act 1989 and listed in Schedules 1 and 1A to the Water Act are public authorities for the purposes of the CFA Act and, in the country area of Victoria, have fire prevention responsibilities under section 43 of the CFA Act. Water corporations may have their own fire prevention officer who can issue permits to burn on their land in the country area of Victoria, during a declared Fire Danger Period.

DELWP and Parks Victoria are primarily responsible for fire prevention and suppression in many of Victoria’s water catchment areas as many of Victoria's significant reservoirs and catchment areas are located in national parks or State forests. National parks and State forests are outside the country area of Victoria. There are some exceptions to this rule where the land lies within the country area of Victoria.

Contact the relevant Water Corporation for more detail on specific fire prevention responsibilities.

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Roads Authorities

VicRoads and Regional Roads Victoria are responsible for the maintenance of freeways, arterial roads and non-arterial State roads. Municipalities are responsible for municipal roads. VicRoads and Regional Roads Victoria are public authorities for the purposes of the CFA Act and with councils are responsible for fire prevention and risk management on public roads under section 43 of the CFA Act. Private roads are the responsibility of the road owner

See Also: Vicroads and Regional Roads Victoria

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Owners and Occupiers

Owners and occupiers have responsibilities to ensure their properties are free of fire hazards that may put the lives and property of others at risk. Council Fire Prevention Officers have a power to issue Fire Prevention Notices when they form the opinion that it is necessary to remove or mitigate a threat to life or property, and where there is no procedure under any other Act or regulations that is more appropriate in the circumstances to address that threat.

Council or persons approved by council may enter private land to remove or minimise the threat if the owners or occupiers do not undertake the works required within the time frame or manner stipulated on the Fire Prevention Notice. If a Fire Prevention Notice is not acted upon, owners or occupiers may be liable to a penalty infringement notice or prosecution in court. The costs associated with the removal of the fire hazard are billed to the owner or occupier of the property.

Residents are asked to have input into Municipal Fire Management Plans via community consultation processes whilst plans are being produced. There is scope for resident groups to have representation on the municipal committees. Municipal Fire Management Plans are available for the community to view at all councils. Some councils have their plans available on their websites.

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