How effective are DSE’s fire zones?

FOBIF has always supported a zoning system for fire management. It’s quite clear that bush close to homes should be treated differently from bush more remote from settlement. That’s one reason why housing in sensitive and fire prone bushland should be strictly controlled.

We are in favour of an active attack on fuel loads close to townships: it should not be forgotten that the Bracewell St fire burned largely through weed infested wasteland—it was not a bushfire. That area should have been cleaned up. That’s why we have supported a clean up of weedy scrub on the Kalimna fringe of Castlemaine township, and of highly flammable pampas grass in Chewton.

We are much more sceptical of burning in ‘environmental management zones.’ For one thing, there is little evidence that these burns are guided by systematic research. In spite of DSE’s policy of ‘adaptive management’, it was revealed at the Bendigo briefing that information collected since 2003 on reduction burns had still not been collated. Obviously, therefore, monitoring has had no influence on the conduct of burn operations. There is no ‘adaptive management.’

We are also frustrated that there is little evidence of integration of public and private fire management [such integration has been official policy since the enquiry into the 2003 bushfires]. Consultations have gone on between DSE and the CFA on this matter, but we’ve been unable to find out what if anything has come of them. We are still unclear about management strategies for the pine plantations, for example, or how they are integrated with the management of the adjacent bushland. The DSE zones seem to have no relationship to fire protection plans on adjoining private land—or, at least, we were unable at the Bendigo briefing to find out what the relationship might be. There is, of course, no equivalent on private land for ‘asset protection zones’.

FOBIF has written both to the CFA and Hancock Plantations asking for details of the fire protection plans for Moonlight flat but has received no answer. A general defence of the safety of pine plantations by the Forest Industry Council may be found here. It’s not clear how the argument in that document would apply to extreme conditions, such as applied in the ACT fires of 2003.

‘Integrated fire management planning’ has been official policy since 2003. It has a website, which can be viewed here.

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