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The Department for Environment and Water is a custodian of parks and reserves, botanic gardens, heritage places and Crown lands which make up approximately 25% of South Australia. This means it manages public lands for South Australians on behalf of the Minister for Climate, Environment and Water.

This involves managing native vegetation including threatened species and ecological communities (across public and private land) through legislation and regulation that protects the environment.

Our role in managing fire; our statement of intent

How is fire managed?Why is fire management important?
Work with First Nations PeopleOur people, planning, knowledge and moreThe law

How is fire managed? What we do

As a custodian and manager of public lands DEW runs a NPWS Fire Management Program made up of people who are passionate about the environment, and who use their skills to reduce bushfire risk and improve biodiversity across these lands. This professional team has expertise in fire planning, fire ecology, prescribed burning and suppressing bushfires.

And because fire doesn’t respect borders, a Burning on Private Land Program was created, in partnership with the CFS, to conduct prescribed burns on strategically located private land. These fires will reduce fuel loads in areas at greatest risk of bushfire across the state, and link to the public land prescribed burns program.

The Fire Management Program also operates as a Group under the CFS to direct its fire management and bushfire suppression work. See below for information on how we respond to bushfire.

Why is fire management important?

Reduce bushfire risk

Reducing bushfire risk is an ongoing and shared responsibility and everyone has a role. We prepare strategic fire management plans to guide activities in high fire-risk areas of the state to reduce bushfire risk to human life, property, infrastructure and environmental assets. We aim to do this in an environmentally sensitive way, on public or private land, where a high risk has been identified.

Respond to bushfire

We are a skilled team of fire specialists with firefighting appliances across the state to prepare for and respond to bushfires wherever they occur in support of CFS.

This National Parks and Wildlife Service Brigade is made up of 7 regional brigades and 2 specialist brigades with over 500 trained DEW and landscape board staff as firefighters or operational support members. These include around 100 seasonal seasonal fire crew for 9 months of the year, along with over 400 other staff from DEW and landscape boards.

Our staff are trained to help manage emergencies with expertise in incident control, mapping, managing data, predicting fire behaviour and natural values.

We assist with interstate and overseas bushfires as part of cooperative arrangements with other emergency services.

Although volunteers are the largest component of most CFS brigades, volunteers don’t form part of the NPWS brigade. Volunteer CFS brigades are invited to prescribed burns, which strengthens the CFS’ firefighting capability, gives volunteers further training opportunities, enables them to contribute to mitigation works in their own community and provides additional support to NPWS. This on-ground collaboration strengthens the working relationship of the two organisations.

Understand the ecology

We use the ecological process of fire as a tool to manage the environment to help native plants establish and improve habitat for animals, or to help with weed control. We do this as part of our planning, which includes strategies for native plant species that require fire or are sensitive to fire.

Build skilled teams

We maintain the agency’s firefighting capacity and skills through training, learning and development, and maintain firefighting equipment, tracks and infrastructure in strategic locations across the state.

Work with First Nations people

DEW acknowledges the First Peoples of South Australia; the Aboriginal Customary Owners and the role that Aboriginal People continue to have in purposefully shaping and caring for the area that we now know as South Australia.

We respect Traditional Owners’ rights, interests and obligations to speak for and care for Country in accordance with customary laws, beliefs and traditions. We appreciate the perspective of Aboriginal People that the land, water, air and all living things are connected and we are thankful for their insights.

Our work is underpinned by:


We partner with CFS; private landholders; conservation and industry groups; other state government agencies that manage public land; and state and national emergency management agencies, to reduce bushfire risk and/or fight fires.

We support a culture of high-quality and effective stakeholder and community engagement, and we are committed to working with, and learning from, First Nation groups to manage fire in the landscape.


We continuously plan, assess and monitor to minimise risks and maximise benefits to communities, and to preserve and enhance biodiversity. This means decisions are well considered and based on the best available knowledge.

A huge amount of behind the scenes work is done before an area is burnt.


We use the best available global, national and local science, data and knowledge and adapt our plans based on what we find out.

We manage spatial data, and undertake monitoring, evaluation and research. Learning lessons from each event is an important part of managing fire, which goes towards helping to reduce the impact of future bushfires and keeping communities safer.


We proudly serve the community of South Australia and ensure that public funds are wisely invested to reduce bushfire risk to the community and enhance the environment.

Our work environment

Our work is driven by a range of State and Commonwealth Acts, Regulations and policies.