Environment SA News

NPWS launches autumn prescribed burns

A total of 51 prescribed burns are planned as part of National Parks and Wildlife Service’s (NPWS) autumn 2023 fire management program, which is anticipated to start in the next fortnight.

NPWS launches autumn prescribed burns

It follows a more successful than anticipated spring 2022, when NPWS completed 33 out of its planned 46 prescribed burns.

This was despite difficult burning conditions caused by above average rainfall across South Australia between September and November.

Prescribed burns are a vital fire management tool to reduce fuel loads across public and private land, and to help protect communities and industries by limiting the spread and intensity of bushfires.

As part of the NPWS fire management program, every opportunity is taken to complete as many burns as possible in suitable weather and fuel conditions during spring and autumn.

This is particularly important in the lead-up to predicted hot and dry El Nino conditions in coming years.

Department for Environment and Water Fire Management Director Fiona Gill said the autumn 2023 prescribed burns program would respond to seasonal weather patterns rather than set dates.

“Similar to last year, the mild summer has resulted in a late grape harvest,” Ms Gill said.

Prolonged smoke exposure, generally from bushfires, can affect the quality of grapes used in wine production.

A strategic, risk-based approach is used to carefully manage smoke around the state’s wine industry and smoke taint from NPWS prescribed burning has not been recorded since its fire management program started in 2004.

Strategies to reduce the risk of smoke taint include:

  • Seeking harvest status information from Vinehealth Australia to help inform the timing of prescribed burns.
  • Proceeding with burns in favourable wind and weather conditions where NPWS assesses very low or no risk of taint, informed by the Bureau of Meteorology’s detailed forecasts and advice.
  • Delivering on the community and wine industry desire for reduced bushfire risk through NPWS prescribed burning, which is based on best available science.

“Some regional wine associations and individual growers, particularly in the Adelaide Hills region, favour deferring all burning until the grape harvest is complete,” Ms Gill said.

“However, adopting this approach would increase the risk of bushfires and resultant smoke taint, and NPWS would not adequately meet its statutory responsibilities and objectives to reduce bushfire risk on public land.

“The NPWS fire management team will continue to work with industry groups and stakeholders, including grape growers and winemakers, to achieve a balanced approach.”

Burns that are unable to be completed due to unsuitable weather are rolled over to the following spring or autumn as part of an ongoing, rolling 3-year mitigation program.

In South Australia, prescribed burns are a shared responsibility between the Country Fire Service, government agencies that manage land (DEW, ForestrySA and SA Water), councils and private landholders.

For the latest information on prescribed burns follow @SAENVIRWATER on Twitter.

A list of planned prescribed burns is available on the DEW website. You can also subscribe to receive updates straight to your inbox.