Lighting of Fires in the Open Air

Lighting of Fires in the Open Air is found in section 11 of the Summary Offences Act 1966 in Victoria. It is a criminal offence that is committed by a person who lit a fire outside which eventually damaged property or endangered life, threatened someone else’s life or property. It also applies to a person who lit a fire and left it without putting someone else in charge of watching the fire.

Have you been accused of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air?

lighting of fires in the open air
Police Interview
Everything you tell a Police officer in the interview may be used in Court against you. Police officers are trying to build their case by having you fill in the gaps in their evidence through your admissions. They are experts at having you answer questions that they know will make you look like a liar when the interview is later played in Court. You will not look guilty if you answer no comment. You will not avoid being charged if you answer all their questions. Please call us before you attend an interview for some advice about the do’s and don’ts for your personal circumstances. We can also attend the interview if you need support or are uncomfortable with Police or the process.

Pleading Not Guilty
If you plan on pleading not guilty it is important to receive advice early from our expert lawyers. We can review the brief and give you practical advice about the strengths and weaknesses of the Prosecution case. There may be evidence missing that we can discover with our own investigations., Maybe you have an alibi that we can lock in and present to Police. Maybe you have a reasonable defence or are simply not to blame. We have multiple in-house counsel and accredited criminal law specialists who defend our clients at Court and win every single day.

Pleading Guilty
If you are at fault and wish to plead guilty we can help you through this process. We can assist you in obtaining character references and writing apology letters to victims. We can help you organize restitution if the case requires it which can go a great way to mitigating your penalty in case such as these. We will make sure the Court understands how and why the offence happened and further understands that they are sentencing a human being on their worst day, not just a ‘criminal. We have many years of experience preparing for pleas and know what does and does not persuade the Court to ensure you receive the fairest sentence.

Which court will the case be heard in?
Lighting of fires in the open air is a summary offence heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

Examples of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air
  • A person lights a fire in an area of their backyard which is close to a neighbours yard where there is a children’s party.
  • A person lights a fire and then incorrectly believing it is being attended to, leaves the area where the fire is burning.
  • A person lights a fire that damages a neighbours property.
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 11 of

Summary Offences Act 1966.

Lighting of fires in the open air
  1. Except as provided in subsection (2), a person must not—
    1. light or use a fire in the open air or carry when lighted any flammable material resulting in the destruction, damaging or endangering of the life or property of others; or
    2. leave a fire in the open air which that person has lighted or of which that person is in charge without leaving another person in charge of that fire.
    Penalty: 25 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months or both.
  2. Subsection (1) does not apply to the owner or occupier of any land or a person acting under the direction of an owner or occupier of any land who burns any grass, stubble, weeds, scrub, undergrowth or any vegetation, wood or other flammable material in an area of land if—
    1. a fire-break of not less than 3 metres and cleared of all flammable material has been prepared around the perimeter of the area of land; and
    2. at least two hours before burning is commenced, notice of intention to burn has been given to each owner or occupier of land contiguous to the area of land.
  3. This section does not apply in the country area of Victoria within the meaning of the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 during a fire danger period within the meaning of that Act.
  4. This section does not affect the right of any person to sue for and recover at common law or otherwise compensation for or in respect of any damage caused by reckless or negligent use of fire.1
“Have you been accused of lighting a fire in the open air?”

Elements of the offence
In essence to prove this charge the Police must show that an accused lit or used a fire in the open air; that the accused left the fire unattended; and that because of the fire the life of another was endangered or the property of another was damaged.

  • You were not responsible for lighting the fire
  • The fire did not endanger the life or property of someone else
  • You put someone else in charge of the fire
Questions in cases like this
  • Were you responsible for lightening the fire?
  • Had notice been given to your neighbours?
  • Was the fire close to any property or people?
Maximum penalty for section 11 of the Summary Offences Act 1966
If convicted of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air (s11 of the Summary Offences Act 1966), the accused may face a maximum penalty of 25 penalty units ($4,030.00 at the time of print) or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has consequences for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal lawyer.

In serious cases where the fire has caused extensive damage, the culprit may receive a prison sentence. However in most cases one is likely to receive a fine or a Community Corrections Order.