Fire breaks & hazard reduction

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Overview

Firebreak installation and hazard reduction is a legal requirement that is outlined within the City of Swan - Fire Hazard Reduction Notice (Firebreak Notice)(PDF, 111KB)which is advertised annually in the West Australian and local newspapers.

Property owners are therefore required to ensure that their properties comply with all requirements within the Annual Firebreak notice from November 2 with standards maintained until April 30 the following year.

Firebreak inspections are carried out throughout this period by City of Swan Fire Control Officers (Community Safety Advocates). Property owners that do not comply with the City of Swan firebreak requirements may be infringed, or hazard reduction work may be carried out by the City of Swan at the property owner’s expense.

Hazard reduction

Through the removal or reduction of available fuel on a property in order to protect life, property and the environment, hazard reduction can be achieved by:

  • Mowing, slashing and removing long dry grass or vegetation. All land with an area under 5001m2 must have all grass maintained to a height no greater than 5cm. All land with an area of 5001m2 or greater, must maintain the grass in a minimum 3 metre wide strip immediately adjacent firebreaks to a height no greater than 10cm.
  • Where hazards are significant, areas immediately adjacent firebreaks should have long dry grass slashed, trees pruned and scrub cleared.
  • Low pruning trees to minimise the likelihood of ground fires igniting tree crowns.
  • Raking or utilising machinery to remove leaf, dead vegetation and understory in forest or wooded areas to create Park Land cleared area within the vicinity of dwellings and assets.
  • Controlled burning is an effective way to reduce available ground fuel and understory, however, controlled burning requires considerable experience in order to be carried out safely and conditions apply. For more information contact your local Bushfire Brigade or the City of Swan.

Firebreaks

A simple and effective method of protecting your property and community from the effects of fire, firebreaks:

  • Can reduce the spread of fire by providing a no fuel area
  • Can be used to isolate hazards and protect assets, e.g. firebreaks around assets, fuel dumps and hay stacks
  • Allow safe access for fire fighting vehicles
  • Provide a control line to assist brigades during fire fighting, back burn or mop up operations.

Firebreak construction

  • Firebreaks are to be developed and maintained clear of all obstacles and flammable materials to create a minimum of three metre wide trafficable surface suitable for four wheel drive vehicles.
  • Overhanging branches must be pruned to provide a 4m vertical clearance above the full width of the firebreak surface.
  • Boundary firebreaks must be aligned immediately inside and adjacent to the external property boundaries.
  • Firebreaks must be constructed to ensure a continuous trafficable surface around the lot and not create ‘dead ends’ or restrictions.
  • Firebreaks may be constructed by ploughing, grading, raking, burning, chemical spraying or any other method that achieves the required standard. 
  • Remove all flammable materials from property.
  • Alternative firebreaks that are approved in writing by the City, or as depicted within a Fire Management Plan approved in writing by the City, are to be constructed to the same standard as general firebreaks and must be constructed along the specified alignment.

Please refer to the Fire Hazard Inspection Notice for basic property owner requirements and the Annual Fire Season Guide for the full copy of property owner requirements. For additional details, please call the City on 9267 9267.

    Suburban blocks

    If your property is in an urban area and is less than 5,000m2, then mowing or slashing may be used as an alternative method. The height of the vegetation should not exceed 50mm over the entire area of the property.

    Rural properties

    if your property is in a rural area, then by November 2 your property MUST have a minimum of 3m wide firebreaks with a 4m vertical clearance around the inside boundaries of your property. Firebreaks are to clear of all flammable material, free from obstructions and should allow large fire fighting vehicles ease of movement without terminating into dead ends at any point. On rural properties with higher fuels additional work may be requested, this may include the requirement to slash all long dry grass adjacent the boundary firebreak. Properties must be maintained to this standard until April 30 the following year.

    Rural land 100 hectares or more: if your property is in a rural area and greater than 100 hectares in size, in addition to the above requirements for rural properties, additional firebreaks will be required to divide your property into areas not exceeding 100 hectares.

    Verge maintenance in Rural areas

    The City of Swan is committed to keeping residents, facilities and the environment safe from the threat of bushfire. Within the City there are thousands of kilometres of rural verges, a significant verge maintenance program operates to manage unwanted vegetation on these verges.

    Grassed verges that are accessible are mowed on an annual program, additionally the City conducts a significant road tree pruning and verge clearing program to improve the safety for all road users and reduce identified fire hazards.

    The prioritisation of hazard reduction work takes into consideration wellbeing and safety for all road users, the actual fire risk from a verge, not just the visual amenity and considers the valuable environmental habitats which exist, some rural verges contain populations of rare flora and fauna which the City is required to protect.

    The threat from fire to private property can be greatly minimised by maintaining a low fuel area between the verge and property. Landowners are encouraged to consider the verge adjoining their property as a part of their land's overall fuel management plan.

    Removal of non-native vegetation and non-permanent works such as slashing, reducing leaf litter and removing fallen branches are acceptable methods to address the fuel load. Burning of verges, clearing or thinning existing native vegetation is not allowed without appropriate approvals from the Department of Environment and Regulation and the City of Swan. If you wish to discuss the management of a rural verge please call the City of Swan on 9267 9267.

    Semi rural properties

    Maintain grassed areas, as far as reasonably practical to 50mm over the entire area. It is recommended that property owners program their hazard reduction in conjunction with the installation and maintenance of firebreaks. If a property is steep, rocky or too wet, an alternative measure may be required to minimise fire hazards, this will need to be formalised by applying for Alternative Firebreak prior to October 15 as outlined in Alternative Firebreaks.

    Alternative firebreaks

    If it is impractical for you to install firebreaks along all or parts of your internal boundaries, you may request permission from the City to install a firebreak in an alternative location or of a different nature. Your request must be received by October 15 to be considered.

    Fire Management Plans

    Where a Fire Management Plan has been implemented as a condition of subdivision, property owners must ensure their property meets the requirements outlined within the Fire Management Plan throughout the firebreak period (November 2 to April 30 the following year). As fire management strategies may require to be altered to meet changing environmental and land use needs, you are advised that the provisions of the Bush Fire Act 1954 may still be enforced. This means that if during the firebreak period a fire hazard has been identified on a property, regardless of any firebreak exemptions outlined within the Fire Management Plan, the City may place an order on a property owner to carry out additional hazard reduction work in accordance with the Bush Fires Act 1954. Property owners should seek clarification from the City if they are unsure of their responsibilities and requirements outlined within the Fire Management Plan.

    The application of stock

    This is an effective method to reduce grass height especially on properties that are difficult to maintain with machinery but will require appropriate fencing, stock branding and in certain areas planning approval. For additional information regarding planning contact the City of Swan on: 9267 9267 For information regarding animal brand and movement requirements visit the Department of Agriculture and Food website or phone 9368 3333.

    Application of herbicides

    This is an effective means to reduce weeds and grasses if applications are properly planned. Generally herbicides are applied by utilising a polythene knapsack or a machine mounted spray system, this should be carried out 2 – 3 times throughout the year in order to be effective and but will not produce immediate results. First application should occur in autumn to be followed up with subsequent applications to control regrowth and allow dead material to rot away prior to fire season. Care and advice must be taken to ensure herbicide does not cause harm to people, animals or the environment within the area of application. Property owners should not spray verges, any public open space or areas near waterways.

    *If you have any concerns in relation to meeting your firebreak obligations, please contact the City on 9267 9267 and a Customer Advocate will be happy to assist you with advice.

    Fire & Emergency Access Construction Standards

    Firebreaks

    • 3 metres wide clear of flammable material
    • 4 metres vertical clearance
    • Trafficable and free from obstructions and dead ends
    • Must be installed immediately adjacent all property boundaries

    Alternative Firebreaks

    • 3 metres wide clear of flammable materials
    • 4 metres vertical clearance
    • Trafficable and free from obstructions and dead ends
    • Must follow designated route as per Fire Management Plan or Alternative Firebreak Approval

    Strategic Firebreaks/Fire Service Access Routes

    • Horizontal clearance:  6 metres wide
    • Strategic Firebreak - trafficable surface: 4 metres wide
    • Fire Access Route - trafficable surface: 6 metres wide
    • Vertical clearance: 4metres
    • Allow two way fire appliance traffic
    • Link up with road network at regular intervals
    • Must follow designated route as per Fire Management Plan
    • Unimpeded by boundary or dividing fences unless fitted with approved gates
    • Strategic Firebreaks and Access Routes must be accessible to Fire Services at all times, to achieve this gates may be locked (or double locked) with fire brigade padlocks available from the City of Swan Community Safety and Places Office to be maintained in good order by the property owner
    • Strategic Firebreak access gates must be signposted at all times with an approved City of Swan - “Fire Service Access Only” sign
    • Individual property owners are responsible for maintenance of Strategic Firebreaks and Fire Access Routes where these fall on private property

    Emergency Access Ways

    • Horizontal clearance: 6 metres wide
    • Minimum trafficable surface: 6 metres wide
    • Vertical clearance: 4metres
    • Trafficable surface graded to allow 2 wheel drive access
    • Must follow designated route as per Fire Management Plan
    • Emergency Access Ways must be sign posted with an approved City of Swan – “Emergency Access Only”
    • Emergency Access gates must not be locked at any time
    • Individual property owners are responsible for the maintenance of Emergency Access Ways where these fall on private property
    • Emergency Access Way are to be maintained to specified standard throughout the year