Prescribed burns keep South Australians safe

Date posted: 02 July 2013

Minister Ian Hunter
Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation / Minister for Water and the River Murray / Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation

A strong commitment to protecting South Australian communities from bushfire continues to drive the State’s prescribed burn programs on public land.

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) has for ten years implemented prescribed burning across South Australia’s parks and reserves, with a significant expansion in the program during the past five years.

During that time, almost 52,300 hectares of the State’s highest-risk areas have been treated by prescribed burns, compared to less than 10,000 hectares during the first five years of the program.

Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter says prescribed burns are used to reduce fuel hazards and regenerate vegetation.

“Bushfires are increasing in size, complexity, and impacts on society across the world, so it’s vital we constantly look at our prescribed burning program and how to do it better,” he says.

“The 2009 Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission recommended a long-term program of prescribed burning based on an annual rolling target of 5 per cent of public land.

“South Australia has embraced a similar approach, with burns planned each spring and autumn to coincide with milder weather conditions, focusing on high bushfire-risk areas of public land.

“Reducing fuel hazards is crucial as it can make bushfires less intense and easier to control, which helps to prevent bushfires spreading to residential areas - ultimately saving lives and property.

“It can also reduce the impact and frequency of larger bushfires,” says the Minister.

DEWNR works closely with the Country Fire Service (CFS), SA Water, and Forestry SA to plan and carry out prescribed burns on public land.

Minister Hunter says fire prevention resources have been significantly increased in South Australia in recent years.

“We now have better fire management planning, an expanded fleet of fire appliances, state-of-the-art aerial ignition equipment, and increased seasonal firefighter recruitment,” he says.

“In 2012/13, more than 11,000 hectares have been successfully treated during 59 prescribed burns, compared to 528 hectares in 29 burns in 2003/04.

“Similar programs on public land managed by SA Water and Forestry SA complement DEWNR’s prescribed burns.

“This commitment by the State’s public land agencies to ensure a co-operative and integrated fire prevention effort further enhances landscape protection from bushfires.

“There were some good results achieved in the State’s most recent autumn prescribed burn program.

“A drier-than-average start to autumn meant high quality fuel reduction was achieved in the earliest burns, producing excellent results for both fire prevention as well as nature conservation,” says the Minister.