The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) conducts prescribed burns as part of its fire management program. Prescribed burning is the controlled application of fire to a particular area of landscape. The aim is to strategically reduce fire fuel hazards in areas of South Australia's parks and reserves.
Reducing fuel hazards is important - it can make bushfires easier to control, help prevent a bushfire spreading to residential areas, and ultimately save lives and property.
Prescribed burning is also used for ecological reasons, such as:
- the protection and maintenance of animal habitats
- regeneration of plant species and communities that are reliant on fire
- improved biodiversity within parks and reserves.
Prescribed burns are often conducted jointly with the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS). DEWNR also partners with SA Water and ForestrySA to carry out prescribed burns in the Mount Lofty Ranges.
Prescribed burning brochure
How are burns planned?
During the process of preparing a Fire Management Plan, the areas within the plan are divided up into zones (asset, buffer and conservation zones). This determines how the fuel in each zone is treated, and therefore where prescribed burns are likely to occur. Within a conservation zone, areas will be marked that are under consideration for burning. From the Fire Management Plan comes an annual works schedule, determining which areas are burnt each year. An environmental assessment is conducted before for each burn and an operations plan is written to describe how the burn will be implemented. Follow-up assessments are conducted after the burn to see if the objectives have been met.
When does burning occur?
Generally, prescribed burning takes place in autumn and spring, and only on certain days when conditions are suitable. The right combination of fuel load, fuel moisture, temperature, relative humidity and wind speed is needed for a prescribed burn to be conducted safely and effectively.
In some parts of the state, depending on seasonal conditions, burns can also happen at other times of the year.
Through ongoing fire monitoring and research, and as we gain experience with new techniques, it is hoped that new ways to carry out more prescribed burns over a wider area will be discovered. This will allow us to take greater advantage of the small windows of opportunity provided by the weather.
Are they safe?
Before every prescribed burn, DEWNR carefully assesses the weather, dryness of the vegetation and site geography to manage any risk factors. We also consider the potential impact on native animals and plants. We also ensure that alternative habitats are available for animals to move into until their original habitat regenerates.
Whenever a burn is happening, appropriate back-up resources and fall-back positions are available in case a prescribed burn crosses control lines.
Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Cooperative
The South Australian Government is acting in several ways to reduce the risk and impact of bushfires on public land.
In 2008 Premier Mike Rann asked that a review be undertaken to identify opportunities and strategies for improvement of fire management on public land. The review resulted in the establishment of a Heads of Agency Agreement between the CFS, SA Water, DEWNR and ForestrySA.
The heads of these government agencies recognised the need to develop an integrated and collaborative approach for fire management on public lands, including prescribed burning and bushfire suppression activities.
The Mount Lofty Ranges Fire Cooperative was then established to coordinate the delivery of the prescribed burning program in the Mount Lofty Ranges across land managed by each of the agencies.