6 stages of prescribed burning

Let the cartoons do the talking as we walk through the process of planning and conducting a prescribed burn.

You might know a little – or even a lot – about the prescribed burns that are carried out in national parks and public lands every year.

They’re all about minimising the risk and impact of bushfires by cleverly, not to mention carefully, reducing fuel loads in at-risk areas.

But do you know just what this entails?

It’s not as simple as just striking a match, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.

From conducting flora and fauna surveys to protect habitats, to figuring out where fire trucks need to be positioned, and ultimately seeing the land regenerate, here’s everything you need to know about the prescribed burning process in South Australia.

Stage 1: Working out the best place to conduct a burn is the first step in prescribed burns preparation. During the planning process, fire management officers assess the risk to nearby assets like homes and farms to make sure that prescribed burning will reduce the risk to these properties if there’s a bushfire.

prescribed burn

Stage 2: Surveys are undertaken to identify important plants, animals and cultural sites that need to be protected. In these instances, the prescribed burn is planned in such a way that certain parcels of land, home to these vulnerable species of precious sites, are unaffected.

prescribed burn

Stage 3: The location of fire trucks and crew are planned months in advance so everyone stays safe when the burn is underway. Thought needs to go into what type of vehicles are used and how many are needed, as well as how many crew need to be on hand. This is all to make sure the burn is conducted safely and without escapes.

prescribed burn

Stage 4: It’s not just the roll of a dice that determines when a prescribed burn will happen. Experienced fire crew look closely at weather patterns to figure out the safest and most effective time to get out into the field. Generally autumn and spring are the best seasons to burn in.

prescribed burn

Stage 5: The prescribed burning day has arrived. There’s a lot that needs to be ticked off the checklist for the burn to go ahead. Weather is the most important factor for safe burning, which includes appropriate wind direction and speed, relative humidity, temperate and fuel moisture. A test burn is carried out before the real thing takes place, and the fire is then extinguished and the area monitored for days after the exercise.

prescribed burn

Stage 6: In the months following a prescribed burn, plants regrow and animals return. Fire officers monitor the landscape and make sure that any necessary treatments are undertaken, such as weeding.

 prescribed burn

The expertise for this highly skilled work resides in the South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR). DEWNR is also a brigade of the Country Fire Service.

Stay tuned in the coming months as we explore each of these stages of the prescribed burning process. In the meantime, read more about two of our fire management crew members: Tony Pratt and Rob Laver.

All images courtesy of George Aldridge.

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