MOORABOOL residents clearing their property for the impending fire season are being warned not to expose their homes to greater risk.
Kevin Tolhurst, senior lecturer in fire ecology and management at the University of Melbourne, has labelled as dangerous the new "10/30" land clearing right, which allows residents to clear vegetation, including trees, within 10 metres of their residence and ground fuel within 30 metres.
The new policy was announced in August, but Dr Tolhurst said it could be wrongly interpreted and lead people to clear everything on their property.
"Totally removing trees and some species of plants from your property can be counter-productive," he said last week. "The problem is, you're exposing your house to stronger winds and for embers to reach your property. Trees can shield a house from some radiation, slow down wind and reduce embers."
Dr Tolhurst said residents should make sure trees were not 'stringybark' types. Those with a high content of oils, such as more flammable eucalyptus, should be removed, he said.
Exotic plants with succulent leaves posed little threat, Dr Tolhurst said.
"All plants burn, but people need to make an assessment on the nature of the vegetation as fuel and what it means in terms of producing flames.
"The focus should be on removing dead material and broken or low-hanging branches. But smaller and younger trees can be left," he said.
Greendale and Blackwood were two of the 52 locations identified by the State Government as being at specific high fire risk this summer.
Blackwood CFA captain Ian Stuart said some householders had started clearing their properties in preparation for what is expected to be a worse season than the previous one.
"I think people are sensible when it comes to clearing their property and agree that not everything should be removed. There are a lot of stringybarks in Blackwood, though - people should be careful of those."