Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) has produced a brochure which is designed to provide awareness of the obligations and responsibilities associated with the use of a QFES Permit to Light Fire (permit). This brochure has been converted into this webpage for easy reading, or alternatively you can download the PDF version here.
It is highly recommended that anyone who already has a permit, or is contemplating using fire within Queensland read the brochure.
The Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 identifies that it is illegal to light a fire in the open in Queensland without a permit, although there are some exemptions. These exemptions can be found in the additional references listed at the end of the brochure.
Beware … Lighting a non-exempt fire without a permit can attract serious penalties including on the spot fines or prosecution. The gravity of these penalties indicate how serious the Queensland Government is about ensuring that the use of fire is authorised, used safely and in such a way as to not adversely impact on you or the community.
When issued with a permit, permit holders are placed in a position of trust by QFES and are expected to understand and meet their responsibilities and obligations. Using a permit automatically indicates acceptance of those responsibilities and obligations.
YOUR FIRE, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
What Do I Need to Know?
A permit is a legal document and can only be issued by a Chief Fire Warden or a Fire Warden in their area of responsibility. It authorises a person to light, maintain and use a fire only on the land described on the permit, during a set period of time and in accordance with the conditions on the permit, as identified by the Fire Warden.
A permit is only issued by a Fire Warden if they believe that the:
- permit holder has confirmed that there are no local laws or other restrictions which prohibit the lighting of a fire on the subject land,
- permit holder has sufficient knowledge and experience to manage the fire/s described on the permit,
- measures put in place will enable the use of fire to undertake the task required without adverse effect on life, property or the environment.
- must have the permit in their possession before lighting the fire,
- must comply with all conditions on the permit, and
- cannot alter anything on a permit without the consent of the Fire Warden.
Protection from liability
Under the Act, providing a person complies with the conditions and directions contained within the permit, the person does not incur any liability at common law for any loss, injury or damage caused by the fire, unless it can be shown that the person acted recklessly or maliciously.
Who do I need to notify?
Your neighbours - If you have been issued with a permit, you should have already notified your neighbours of your intention to apply for a permit to have a fire. This should have been done in enough time for them to object, make arrangements, or ask for you to conduct the fire in such a way that the impact on them is minimal. 72 hours is seen as a reasonable time to notify a neighbour of your intention to apply for a permit, however this can be at the discretion of the Fire Warden who may determine if a lesser or greater notification time is required. Remember – although you have a right to apply for a fire permit and if granted, light a fire, your neighbours also have the right not to be affected by that fire.
Unless the Fire Warden changes the requirement on your permit, you also need to contact:
- The local QFES Fire Communications Centre (Firecom) just before you light the fire (the Fire Warden will write the free call number on the permit). Firecom is responsible for taking reports of fires, e.g. 000 (triple zero) calls and responding QFES resources accordingly. They need to know of any planned fires in an area to avoid unnecessary responses.
- The local fire brigade – as they are likely to be the first response unit that becomes aware of the fire.
Your Fire Warden may also stipulate on your permit that you are to notify certain parties of when you intend to light – if this is the case, you are obligated to do so.
When to Light?
Under the Act, lighting a fire also means to maintain and use a fire. This means that permit holders need to conform with the conditions of the permit not only when lighting the fire, but throughout the period while they are maintaining and using the fire.
To ensure that you maintain control throughout the burn, you need to be aware of the weather conditions for the duration of the planned fire, not just at the time of lighting. For example, if the permit identifies that the fire cannot be lit if the wind exceeds 15 kph and if the wind is from the West, then these conditions must apply throughout the duration of the fire.
As a result of the above, permit holders should check the weather forecast prior to lighting to ensure that the current and forecast conditions will not be outside those prescribed by the Fire Warden on the permit. Obviously, you cannot control the weather, but by checking the conditions, you have the best chance of ensuring that you adhere to the requirements of the permit. But remember, the conditions on the permit apply for the entire time that the fire is alight.
There are a number of useful weather sites on the internet, some of which provide daily forecasts (up to four days ahead) showing the temperature, relative humidity and wind strength and direction. A good site to obtain a general weather forecast for your area is the Bureau of Meteorology website
QFES have also developed a fire weather outlook application called the Fire Danger Rating Graphic which provides an outlook for a four day period. Under Fire Danger Rating Graphic are the Forest Fire Danger Rating and the Grassland Fire Danger Rating maps showing fire danger outlook across the State.
The maps provide a general picture of the fire danger in areas throughout the State, using the same colour scheme and ratings as the Fire Danger signs seen in most parts of Queensland. There is also a spreadsheet available on the same webpage if more detailed information is required.
Managing the Fire
It is your responsibility to ensure that the fire you light does not affect other persons, properties or the environment.
If you are yet to apply for a permit, make sure that you have the correct information available to supply the Fire Warden with the details of where the fire is planned to be lit and how you intend to manage, control and contain the fire. Completing a written Application for Permit to Light Fire will ensure that you provide the Fire Warden with the information needed to make a decision whether or not to grant a permit. Applications for a Permit to Light Fire can be obtained from your Fire Warden, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Area Office or downloaded here
If you already have a permit, it means that the Fire Warden is satisfied with how you have demonstrated that you plan to manage the fire and how you will contain and control it. Make sure you follow the plan and abide by the conditions of the permit.
If your fire escapes from the planned boundaries of the fire or gets out of control in any way, your obligations (under the Act) are to:
- take all reasonable steps to extinguish or control the fire, and
- as soon as is practicable, report the existence and location of the fire by calling 000 (triple zero).
If you are at all concerned about the behaviour of the fire, act early.
Remember….YOUR FIRE, YOUR RESPONSIBILITY
How long do I supervise the fire?
You need to supervise the fire for as long as is necessary to ensure that it doesn’t escape. The Permit to Light Fire states: “After burning, the perimeter of the burn must be made safe and the fire patrolled until there is no longer any risk of the fire escaping”.
You can cease patrolling when the burnt area is cool, with no remaining heat source.
Where do I find more information?
Assistance and information can be obtained from a number of sources, as follows:
- Your Fire Warden - see the Fire Warden Finder here
- Your local fire brigade - Urban Fire Station or Rural Fire Brigade
- The nearest RFS Area Office - a contact list can be found here