Orana staff on high alert with total fire ban

ORANA Fire Control Centre staff were on high alert in their operations room yesterday in response to a blaze south of Wellington as the perfect fire conditions continued under an extended total fire ban.

The total fire ban began on New Year's Day and was extended in the Lower Central West Plains, which contains Dubbo, due to the weather forecast of continuing hot, windy conditions.

The Lower Central West Plains currently has a fire danger rating of very high along with nine other NSW Fire Areas.

The only area with a higher rating is North Western which is currently classified as severe.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Orana team manager Superintendent Lyndon Wieland said the Orana Fire Control Centre prepared for a total fire ban by having a minimum level of staff available at the centre or on call nearby to handle a fire situation.

"That could depend on how severe the weather is," he said.

As the Daily Liberal spoke to Superintendent Wieland the Orana Fire Control Centre received a triple-0 call about a grass and car fire south of Wellington.

NSW RFS Orana team safety officer Kennedy Tourle and membership services officer Mark Pickford communicated with RFS crews in the operations room as they pinpointed the location of the fire.

Superintendent Wieland said information from the Bureau of Meteorology before the RFS commissioner prompted the decision to impose a total fire ban.

"We do them in 24 hour blocks. We had one yesterday and it was extended again today," he said yesterday.

The major determining factor for a total fire ban is the weather but the "curing" or drying out of vegetation that fuels a fire is also taken into account.

"A few years ago during the drought I can recall us having a three or four day total fire ban," Superintendent Wieland said.

He added there was usually a break in dry, hot, windy weather after a few days.

Superintendent Wieland warned residents that fires couldn't be lit during a total fire ban and severe penalties applied to those who broke the law.

Lighting a fire on a day of total fire ban attracts a fine of up to $5500 and up to 12 months in prison.

For a fire that damages property, the environment or causes death a maximum penalty of $100,000 or 14 years prison applies. Authorities expect to be on high alert with more fire bans to continue until the weekend as temperatures are predicted to hit 40 degrees celsius on Saturday.

megan.taylor@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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