THE NSW Rural Fire Service has announced that the Riverina Zone will start the annual bushfire danger period early due to unseasonably dry conditions.
October 14 will mark the official start of the statutory danger period and the NSW RFS is urging Riverina residents to prepare for the fire season now.
NSW RFS Operational Officer Bradley Stewart said people wishing to light a fire in the open will need a permit, which can be obtained from their local rural fire brigade or Fire Control Centre at no cost.
"While it is important to continue hazard reduction, we have all seen the devastation that bushfires can bring to a community, so I strongly urge people to exercise caution when carrying out these activities," Mr Stewart said.
"With summer conditions becoming more conducive to the spread of fire, people need to be extremely careful when using fire.
"Anyone planning to light a fire for cooking or entertainment do not require a fire permit although they should remain alert at this time of year as a small fire can quickly escalate into a major incident in hot and windy conditions."
Mr Stewart also urged residents to ensure they have land owners' consent and to always extinguish their fires before leaving.
"Heavy fines may apply if campfires or other open flames are left unattended," he said.
"Campers should also check for fire restrictions in National Parks or State Forests that they may be planning to visit."
During the bushfire danger period, anyone wishing to light a fire will need a permit in the Coolamon, Junee, Lockhart and Wagga local government areas.
On days of total fire ban or a fire danger rating of very high, all fire permits are automatically suspended.
To check the fire danger ratings for an area, visit the NSW RFS online or contact your local fire control centre.
The danger period will end on March 31 next year.