Bushfire risk and burning off

If you are concerned about a bush fire hazard on your property or an adjoining property, you need to contact the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).

The RFS MidCoast Bushfire Danger Period is from 1 September until 31 March, or as advised by the NSW RFS.  If you plan to burn during this period anywhere within the MidCoast Council area, you require a Fire Permit from the RFS. Call 1300 643 262.


Year round, you also need to comply with the regulations below, for your area.

BBQ, Camp Fires and Fires for Recreational Purposes

It is possible to light an open fire for recreational purposes, such as a barbecue or camping with permission of the land owner.

Before you light any camp fire, you should check the Fire Danger Rating to understand potential bush fire risk. If a Total Fire Ban is in place, you can’t light any fires, but you can use a gas or electric barbecue provided you meet safety requirements. Contact the NSW Rural Fire Service for information on the Fire Danger Rating.

If the Fire Danger Rating is safe then you can have a fire for the purpose of cooking, barbecuing or recreational purposes such as camping, picnicking, scouting or other similar outdoor activities. However your fire must not impact on the amenity of the local area or create a smoke hazard. You must also comply with the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2022 - NSW Legislation.

If it is safe to have a fire for barbecue or recreational purposes, you must comply with the following restrictions:

To light and maintain the fire use only:

  • dry seasoned wood
  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • natural gas or proprietary barbecue fuel (including a small quantity of fire starter)
  • the fire must not have an impact on any person

Burning Off and Lighting Fires

Fires endanger lives, health, property and the environment. If you want to burn dead and dry vegetation, there are strict rules in place.

Burning dead & dry vegetation

Council’s Control of Open Burning Policy 2022(PDF, 101KB) outlines areas where the burning of dead and dry vegetation is permitted, when an approval from Council is required and the conditions in which burning must be undertaken.

After reading the Open Burning Policy, if you need to find out your property land size and zone check out Council’s online mapping portal. Switch on Legislated EPI and LEP layers on the left-land side of the map and type in your address and look under the ‘land information’ tab on the right-hand side of the map.

Please note that generally residents living in a residential/urban area are not permitted to burn due to surrounding population density, amenity impact and access to alternative disposal options including green waste bins and waste management facilities. Burning of general or commercial waste is not permitted at any time.

All burn piles must be constructed and burnt in accordance with NSW Rural Fires Service, Fire and Rescue NSW document Standards for pile burning Standards for Pile Burning.

Fire Permits, Total Fire Bans and No Burn Notices

You must obtain a fire permit from the NSW Rural Fire Service or Fire and Rescue NSW prior to burning dead and dry vegetation during the ‘bushfire danger period’. Please see the following link to further information Bush Fire Danger Period and Fire Permits - NSW Rural Fire Service.

Fire restrictions including ‘total fire bans’ placed by the NSW Rural Fire Service or Fire and Rescue NSW and 'no burn notices' issued by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority override any approvals from Council and directions provided by these authorities must be followed at all times.

Enforcement Action & Penalties

Please be aware that failure to comply with Council requirements and/or the Protection of the Environment (Clean Air) Regulations (2022) can result in Council issuing Penalty Infringement Notices and Prevention Notices under Protection of the Environmental Operations Act (1997). 

Reducing Bushfire Risk

Managing bushland reserves to minimise the threat of fire is an ongoing responsibility of Council.

We are only able to manage fire risk on properties we own or manage. Concerns regarding all privately owned land needs to be referred to the Rural Fire Service.

Private residents can help reduce the threat of fire to their property by reducing hazards within their boundaries. This needs to be carried out whilst still complying with Chapter 12 -Tree Preservation in The Great Lakes Region Development Control Plan (DCP) 2013

For advice on how to reduce the fire risk on your property, you should contact the Rural Fire Service.

If we consider that a particular reserve has a high fire risk, we are able to use a series of protection strategies. A common option is to create an Asset Protection Zone (APZ).  These are like "buffer zones" between the fire threat and the neighbouring property. To create an APZ, the land owner or manager needs to conduct a detailed environmental assessment of the area.

To manage an Asset Protection Zone, Council always needs cooperation from the neighbouring properties. For example, garden waste dumping and storage of flammable materials in surrounding gardens will reduce the effectiveness of the APZ, and may increase risk and hinder fire fighting access.

Please be aware that the establishment of an Asset Protection Zone near your property doesn't replace your own responsibility to keep your property 'bush fire ready'.

Wood Smoke Pollution

During the winter, the smoke from domestic wood heaters causes a lot of air pollution.  Wood smoke pollution affects everyone.  It is bad for your health and the health of others in your community.

To prevent wood smoke pollution:    

  • Only burn dry wood.    
  • Never let your heater smoulder for long periods. Keep the flame lively and bright.    
  • Check to see if your chimney is smoking and have your chimney cleaned every year.

Council Officers have the power to issue smoke abatement notices and on-the-spot fines of $200 to occupiers that allow excessive smoke to be emitted from chimneys in residential homes. 

A smoke abatement notice directs a householder to make necessary improvements, maintenance or repairs to ensure that excessive smoke is not emitted from their chimneys.

Excessive Smoke is basically when the smoke is in a visible plume which is at least 10 metres long.

Common causes of excessive smoke:    

  • Insufficient kindling.
  • Too much firewood in the heater.
  • Turning the air control to "slow burn" too soon after light-up or refuelling.
  • Trying to burn a single large log.
  • Adding firewood without opening the air control.
  • Incorrectly placed log which blocks the air supply to the base of the fire.
  • Use of wood that is too wet. 
  • Installation or maintenance problems.

For further information call Council's Environmental Health Officer or visit the wood smoke reduction program.

The EPA also provides information about risks and health effects of wood smoke: Wood Smoke Isn't Good Smoke.