Fire permits

The aim of the fire permit system is to ensure the appropriate measures are put in place so that fire is used safely.

A permit imposes conditions on the way a fire is lit and maintained, and can only be issued by authorised Permit Issuing Officers with delegation from the Emergency Services Commissioner.

Fire permits (permits) are required for the following activities:

  • burning off in the open air during the declared bushfire danger period (official bushfire season);
  • lighting, maintaining or using a fire in the open air (i.e. not in existing fireplaces or on an electric or gas barbeque) to cook food or heat liquids on unleased Territory or Commonwealth land in a rural area at any time of the year; and
  • lighting, maintaining or using a fire, using fireworks, or undertaking a high risk activity (welding, grinding, soldering and gas cutting) in the open air during a total fire ban.

Built up area

If you live in the suburbs or city (Built up) area you can apply for a permit by contacting ACT Fire & Rescue (ACTF&R) on 02 6207 8472 or emailing actf&rrisk&planning@act.gov.au.

Be aware that is an offence under the Environment Protection Regulation 2005 to burn garden waste or other waste without an environmental authorisation on land within the built-up area of the ACT.  To obtain an environmental authorisation contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81.

Further information on residential air pollution can be found at Residential Air Pollution from Domestic Premises

Rural area

If you live in the rural or country areas outside the suburbs or city of Canberra, you will need to contact the ACT Rural Fire Service (ACTRFS) to apply for a permit on 6207 8609, or send an email request to rfs@act.gov.au

Please understand that it takes time to process a request for a permit so you should allow at least 5 working days for the process to take place. A site inspection may be required in order to issue a permit.

 

Frequently asked questions about fire permits

When are permits required?

Permits are required during the declared bushfire season. This generally runs from 1st October to 31st of March each year, fire season dates may change due to seasonal conditions. Check the ESA website for up to date information.

Can a fire permit be cancelled or suspended?

A permit can be cancelled or suspended at any time. Permits are automatically suspended during:

  • Total fire bans;
  • If a special conditions set out in the permit varies the cancellation or suspension rule; and
  • by direction of the ESA or relevant fire service.

Information on the declaration of a Total Fire Ban and the Fire Danger Rating can be found on the total fire ban page.

Why are permits necessary?

Permits allow the ESA to know the location of legal burns at any given time. If a call to a fire is received in the locality of the permit burn it is a simple matter to verify if the call is an actual fire or a legal permit burn.

Permits will also contain conditions to increase the safety of the fire. You may only be allowed to burn during specified weather parameters and with certain equipment/personnel available.

Despite a permit being issued, you are required to notify the ESA and other relevant parties as stipulated in your permit 24 hours prior to lighting your fire.

What can be burnt?

In the rural area, permits allow the burning of any material for a range of purposes, however primarily they are available for the elimination of fuels which are considered a fire hazard, windrows after clearing and also some burning to conserve biological diversity or ecological integrity. In the built up area, burning of unseasoned vegetation, garden waste or other waste is prohibited under the EPA legislation.

The ESA discourages the use of fire in place of mowing, grazing or other practical alternatives.

It is an offence under the Environment Protection Regulation 2005 for a person to burn any off the following without an environmental authorisation:

  • plastics;
  • wood that is painted;
  • chemically treated or contaminated with a chemical; or
  • Chemicals (other than chemicals recommended by the manufacturer as fuel for a fire).

For further information contact Access Canberra on 132281 or visit air pollution from domestic premises.

Am I allowed to have a barbecue without a permit?

If a total fire ban is in force, wood, charcoal or spirit burning barbeques may not be used, irrespective of whether a Government-provided fireplace is used or not.

Gas or electric barbeques may be used provided all of the following conditions are met:

  • The barbeque is under constant adult supervision and attendance;
  • The area within three metres of the barbeque is cleared of all materials which could burn; and
  • A fire extinguisher or continuous supply of water is available for use to extinguish the fire if required

If a total fire ban is not in force, the following rules apply during the official bushfire season:

Barbeques on residential land

A Fire Permit is not required for a gas or electric barbeque on residential land provided the area around the barbeque is cleared of flammable material for at least 3 metres.

A Fire Permit is not required for a barbeque with solid fuel provided all of the following conditions are met:

  • The barbeque is under constant adult supervision and attendance;
  • The area within three metres of the barbeque is cleared of all materials which could burn; and
  • A fire extinguisher or continuous supply of water is available for use to extinguish the fire if required.

Barbecues on unleased Territory or Commonwealth land

A Fire Permit is not required for barbeques in designated fireplaces provided by the Territory or Commonwealth Government.

A Fire Permit is not required for electric or gas barbecues and they are allowed as long as the area around the barbeque is cleared of flammable material for at least 3 metres. ACT Government barbeques are maintained so that the area around the barbeque is always cleared to at least 3 metres.

A Fire Permit is required for all other solid fuel barbeques.  In addition, you must comply with all of the following conditions:

  • The barbeque is under constant adult supervision and attendance;
  • The area within three metres of the barbeque is cleared of all materials which could burn; and
  • A fire extinguisher or continuous supply of water is available for use to extinguish the fire if required.

How much does a permit cost?

Permits are free of charge.

What preparations do I need to make?

You must follow all general and special conditions outlined on the issued permit. You should also phone the relevant issuing officer if you are unsure or need further advice on the safety of your fire.

In the rural area, if you are clearing vegetation, create smaller piles to make them easier for you to handle. Get your contractor to place the piles centrally in the cleared area, ensuring they are away from structures, utility services, other trees and the boundary.

You will need to ensure that you have appropriate equipment onsite to control the fire you light. It is also important to have an area surrounding your fire clear of flammable material. The bigger the fire, the larger the area you will need as a break.

If you undertake permitted burning activities you must notify the ESA and your neighbours at least 24 hours in advance.

You will also need to check on the day of the burn:

Has a Total Fire Ban has been declared?

What is the daily weather forecast and what is the forecast for the days preceding the fire?

Once I have lit the fire what are my responsibilities?

Understand that once you light a fire, you are responsible for the consequences and any damage caused to neighbouring properties.

Once you have commenced a burn you are not to leave it until the burn is completed. It is an offence under section 126 of the Emergencies Act 2004 to leave a fire unattended by an adult, even temporarily, unless it is extinguished. Fires will need to be checked after being extinguished for hot spots

Above all else, read the conditions of the permit. If you fail to comply with the conditions written on the permit, not only are you responsible for the damage you cause, you are also liable to be fined for failing to comply with the conditions of the permit.

What happens if I lose control of my fire?

If you lose control of your fire contact “000” immediately. It is the quickest way to get help and the sooner you call, the quicker help will arrive.

“I burn stuff all the time; I do it after dark, no one cares”!

It is illegal for you to burn without a permit in the rural area during the declared bushfire season and is illegal to burn off in the built up area. You may be subject to legal actions under the environmental protection regulations 2005 or Emergencies Act 2004. It is the responsibility of the permit holder to ensure they have checked all their requirements under the different legislations.

If a fire is reported, you will cause the response of a large number of fire appliances. While these crews are attending your illegal act they are unable to respond to other serious emergencies that may lead to loss of life and property. You will also face the possibility of being fined $15,000, imprisonment for 1 year or both.