HIGH ALERT: Fire bans as teams prepare for severe danger

EDITORIAL: Be prepared for nasty day

BORDER firefighters are bracing for severe fire danger today with the temperature to soar to almost 40 degrees.

The Country Fire Authority and Rural Fire Service has declared a total fire ban in the North East and southern Riverina — no fires can be lit in the open until after midnight.

North East CFA brigades and NSW Rural Fire Services firefighters in Albury will be on stand-by.

CFA district 24 operations officer Adrian Gutsche said control centres had “incident-management teams, strike teams were on stand-by and volunteer administrators were ready to go”.

Wodonga West CFA’s Matt Dobson is one of hundreds of Victorian and NSW volunteers ready for any fire emergency.

Mr Dobson, a volunteer of 20 years, said he hoped his day would be spent with his crew watching the cricket in the brigade’s air-conditioned shed.

“Hopefully we’ll have nine-tenths of bugger all to do, but we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice,” he said.

Albury RFS inspector John McGrath said: “If it’s a total fire ban, that means a total fire ban — no fire at all, the only thing you’re allowed to do is use a gas or electric barbecue at your home.”

He warned drivers to avoid long grass because as the catalytic converter on many vehicles could spark a fire.

Insp McGrath and Mr Gutsche said people should phone 000 the moment they saw any sign of a fire.

“Let us know straight away — two minutes can make a big difference,” Insp McGrath said.

The North East and Border regions have avoided any major fires this summer.

Insp McGrath said the small fires they had extinguished had been caused by unattended camp fires or lightning strikes.

“I’ve been on duty for a week and there were 10 incidents, but there’s been nothing more than half an acre. It has all been really small stuff,” he said.

Mr Gutsche said lightning strikes were an unavoidable cause of small blazes, but there was also a human element at play.

“In urban areas, there’s still that human factor — people stealing cars and lighting them,” he said.

There has been a spate of car fires in Wodonga and Albury in the past month.

Several vehicles have been dumped and burnt along the Wodonga Creek and off the Bandiana Link Road and one at Mungabareena Reserve.

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