Total Fire Bans: what it means to camping and 4wding

Total Fire Bans: what it means to camping and 4wding

Some parts of the world face tornado’s or earthquakes. Queensland in Australia endure’s a lot of floods and cyclones. For those of us in the southern parts of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania – summer is the time to be wary as bushfire is our most prevalent natural disaster. So what can we do to ensure our camping trip or weekend on the 4wd tracks doesn’t become an unwanted BBQ?


This is fun!

First of all, when is bushfire season? In the southern areas of WA, it’s November through to April each year. While fire ban dates differ from shire to shire, this is the period when we’ve gotta give up the crackling of a campfire in exchange for the gentle hiss of the gas stove.

You may consider changing your plans on days of extreme fire risk or total fire bans. If the idea of being caught in a whirlwind of fire doesn’t deter you from camping in a grassy field, maybe the fact that you can’t use generators, chainsaws or motorcycles will deter you instead! HELL!

This….is HELL!


Total Fire Ban. What does it mean?

A total fire ban is declared when the relevant authority deems it necessary. In Western Australia, that relevant authority is DFES; the Department of Fire & Emergency Services. A total fire ban may be declared on days when fire will be difficult to control, either due to weather, or when existing bushfires are stretching resources.

Black Saturday bushfires stretched the entire countries fire resources to the limit

Black Saturday bushfires stretched the entire countries fire resources to the limit

First of all, where to get this information. ABC local radio will broadcast fire ban information regularly across the country. Keep an eye on the roadside fire danger signs dotted around the place too, these will let you know. You can also follow your state’s emergency department on twitter, or check out the following websites relevant to your state:

DFES (WA) SAFECOM (SA) PFES (NT) QFES (QLD) ESA (ACT) Emergency NSW EMV (Victoria) TFS (Tas)

The following information refers to total fire bans in Western Australia. Check with your local authority to determine which of these applies to your area if you live outside of WA.

Can I light a fire?

Do I even have to answer that? Just in case I do, the answer is no.

Can I BBQ? 

Yes! But…Your BBQ may not be solid fuel. No charcoal, no wood. Gas BBQ’s can be used, although they must have an enclosed flame, never be left unattended and all flammable material must be cleared for 5 metres around your BBQ.

Image courtesy of Stuart John

Image courtesy of Stuart John

Can I bust out the chainsaw or generator?

Unfortunately, if you come across a fallen tree in your path, you’re breaking out the axe or hand saw. Chainsaws, generators or other small engine powered tools may not be used in the bush during a total fire ban.

Am I allowed to drive off-road?

Yes! So long as harvest and vehicle movement ban has not been implemented (I believe shit has to be pretty serious for this) and you stick to existing roads and tracks. No bush bashing in uncleared areas! You shouldn’t be doing that any time of the year.

However, you cannot ride a motorbike or quad off road during the total fire ban.

I’m a smoker, do I have to go cold turkey?

Good news! You don’t have to lay off the cancer sticks! So long as you are being a responsible chain smoker and not throwing your ciggies into the bush!

Not cool bro!

Not cool bro!

So there’s the rules around campfires and the total fire ban. Always play it smart out there people and remember to use your noggin, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do! Keep an eye on the blog, as next week I’ll be covering what you should and shouldn’t do when caught out by a fire.


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  1. Reggie
    December 09, 13:11 Reply
    Can't go offroading unless the area is significantly cleared
    • Alex Garner
      December 12, 12:05 Reply
      This is true, but if you're not sticking to existing roads and tracks, then you're bush bashing anyway which is just as irresponsible. Either way, I've added this detail into the article, just in case someone WAS planning on cutting a new track during a fire ban.
  2. Reggie
    December 10, 08:47 Reply
    What happened to my comment? You can't go offroad in bush unless it's significantly cleared. Driving through overgrown/tight tracks is not significantly cleared. Please clear it up to avoid confusion and misleading information and help everyone be responsible. Use
    • Alex Garner
      December 12, 12:02 Reply
      Comments are held in moderation for later approval, unless you have had a comment approved previously. Helps keep the spammers out.
  3. Mrpete
    December 13, 18:14 Reply
    I wont go off road in the summer months unless I have a drum full of cold water. You breakdown out on the RAAF road that runs from Muchea to the Pinjar power station and you are pretty much in trouble. On that 24km "road" the sand in summer is like talk powder and its oh so easy to get stuck. Always travel in convoys on that section of ulrta soft sand. There are some incredibly tight 90 degree left and right hand bends which are also a trap for the unwary or for the first timer wannabe. Two steep hills can bring you to a grinding halt . Best is to back down and find the chicken tracks. Done that trip at night plus the powerlines as well. Night driving is totally weird for the first time , and what looks to be dangerous at night is dead easy in the daytime. Merry Christmas to all .

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