National

What does a total fire ban mean?

What does a total fire ban mean?
Throughout the warmer months in Australia authorities will often declare a total fire ban.
These are implemented on very hot, windy and dry days, when bushfires are most likely to spread and cause extensive damage.
A total fire ban has been declared for the entirety of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia today, as well as large parts of Queensland.
A file photo of a fire danger sign. (AAP)
Essentially this means you cannot light, maintain, or use a fire out in the open, or carry out any activity that may spark a blaze.
Hot works such as grinding and welding - which can cause a spark - are not allowed to be carried out in the open.

Can I use an electric barbecue?

Generally, an electric barbecue can be used for cooking as long as it is "under the direct control of a responsible adult" who is keeping an eye on it the entire time it's being used.
No combustible material should be kept within two metres of it while it's operating.

Can I use a gas barbecue?

As with an electric barbecue, a gas one can be used by an adult present at times, and as long as it's away from combustible material.
In addition, there must be an immediate and continuous supply for water, and the barbecue has to be close to a home.
Gas barbecues in designated picnic areas approved by the council or National Parks can also be used during a total fire ban.
A guide to fire alert levels and danger ratings. (Graphic: Tara Blancato)

Can I use a pizza oven?

No. Any barbecue, pizza oven or smoker which uses solid fuel like wood or charcoal can not be used outside during a total fire ban.

Can I use a lawn mower?

On its website, the NSW RFS recommends activities such as using a tractor should be reconsidered, to reduce the risk of sparking a fire.
Similarly, in Victoria the CFA urges people to avoid mowing the lawn or using trimmers during total fire ban days.

Can I use fire during a total fire ban if I have a permit?

No, permits are suspended on total fire ban days.
How to protect yourself during poor air quality conditions. (Graphic: Tara Blancato)

What are the penalties during a total fire ban?

Penalties vary across the country, but lighting fires on total fire ban days are not taking lightly anywhere and you can face fines and even time behind bars.
If you light a fire on a total fire ban day in NSW, you can be hit with a $2,200 fine on the spot.
If the matter goes to court that fine could be as high as $5,500 and depending on the offence you could face a year in jail.
If you light a fire that damages or destroys life, property, or the environment the penalties are much higher. Fines are as high as $132,000 and the maximum jail term is 14 years.
A total fire ban is in place for much of Australia. (iStock)
In Queensland: "​Anyone found responsible for lighting fires without a permit where one was required, can be prosecuted. Prosecution can also occur if a person is found responsible for lighting a fire that breaches local law or the Environmental Protection Act 1994.​"