Lighting Open Air Fires

– section 11 of the Summary Offences Act 1966

lighting open air firesLighting of Fires in the Open Air is when you light a fire and the fire damages property or threatens someone else’s life or property. Or when you light a fire and you leave the fire without putting someone else in charge of watching the fire.

Examples of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air
  • A man lights a very large bonfire close to his neighbour’s shed.
  • A woman lights an open fire next to the tent of other campers, and leaves the fire without telling any of her friends to watch the fire.
What are some of the possible defences to a charge of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air?
  • 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

There are other possible defences, depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offending. Each matter is unique and requires an individual approach and strategy.

Questions in cases like this
  • Were you responsible for lightening the fire?
  • Where was the fire?
  • Was the fire close to any property or people?

Maximum penalty and Court that deals with this charge

The maximum penalty for this offence is 25 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, or both.

Lighting of fires in the open air is a summary offence heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

“Did you light a fire that caused damage?”
What is the legal definition of Lighting of Fires in the Open Air?

A person lit or used a fire in open air, and the fire damaged property or endangered the life or property of another person. Or a person lit a fire in open air and left the fire without putting anyone else in charge of the fire.

Legislation

The section that covers this offence is section 11 of the Summary Offences Act 1966.1

What can you be sentenced to for this charge?

In serious cases where the fire has caused extensive damage, you may get some months in prison. However in most cases you are likely to receive a fine or a Community Corrections Order.

 


[1] Summary Offences Act 1966 – Section 11

(1) Except as provided in subsection (2), a person must not—
(a) 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
(b) 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—
(a) 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
(b) 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.