With fire restrictions now lifted across the region, authorities have come together to urge landholders to be vigilant about protecting their paddock trees during the stubble burning season.
As part of the Year of the Paddock Tree campaign, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, Greater Shepparton City Council and the CFA have joined forces to protect the catchment’s scattered trees in coming months.
CFA’s vegetation management officer for the north-east region Phil Hawkey said landholders must establish a three-metre firebreak around trees.
‘‘That means there can be no flammable material around the tree,’’ Mr Hawkey said.
‘‘Sometimes simply raking around the trees is all it takes.’’
He said it was essential landowners monitored the fire to ensure a safe and effective burn.
‘‘A person has to be in attendance at all times while the fire is alight and must have the capacity and means to extinguish the fire,’’ he said.
Quite apart from the loss of vegetation when paddock trees are destroyed during stubble burns, Mr Hawkey said burning trees were the single biggest killer of firefighters.
‘‘Burning trees are the number one cause of deaths for firefighters in Australia.
‘‘They are so unpredictable once they are fully ablaze and there’s no telling when they’ll fall or drop branches.’’
Mr Hawkey has noticed a welcome shift in thinking about the value of paddock trees during his tenure with the CFA. ‘‘There’s still more work to be done but I’m convinced that many landowners now appreciate the value of the natural resources on their properties. You can’t replace a tree in a hurry.’’
Goulburn Broken CMA’s Rebecca Caldwell said stubble burns posed a significant threat to the viability of scattered trees in the landscape.