13 Nov 2020 Opinion

Reducing bushfire risk together

This article originally published in The Warrandyte Diary, November 2020

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I read with interest the opinion piece by Ryan Smith in last month’s edition of the Warrandyte Diary.

It is important for me to highlight to local residents in the Warrandyte area the important work that the Victorian Government is doing and continues to do in ensuring that communities that are subject to bush fire risk are safe and as prepared as possible.

It’s important that residents have a clear understanding of the challenges and complexities in this area and understand how they are being addressed.

Managing Bush Fire risk is a shared responsibility.

The Victorian Government works closely with local government, partner agencies and private landowners to reduce bushfire risk in Warrandyte.

As much of the risk profile is situated on private land this requires a collective effort to address.

In the Warrandyte area, 66 hectares of fuel break and roadside slashing is conducted annually and 10 planned burns have been undertaken in the last five years.

In terms of analysing bushfire risk, the Warrandyte electorate comprises 86 per cent private land, the remaining 13.4 per cent is public land (1202ha) with the total footprint being 8999ha.

Specifically, in the Warrandyte State Park there has been 64 hectares of treatment delivered, including 33.4km of fuel break work and 24.4km of broad acre slashing. Due to the linear nature of a lot of the crown land along the river in Warrandyte, fuel reduction burning isn’t the most effective treatment, particularly in the riparian vegetation along the river.

Therefore, the vast majority of fuel management undertaken is by mechanical fuel treatment, with 167 hectares of public land subject to an annual slashing program.

This is a combination of roadside slashing to maintain safe access and egress, fuel break maintenance and broad area slashing.

This 167 ha represents 13 per cent of public land in the Warrandyte electorate that is subject to fuel treatment each year.

Bushfire Management Strategy

A new Bushfire Management Strategy has been developed over the past two years and is due to be released by the end of October 2020.

The new Strategy was developed with direct input from a Stakeholder Advisory Group which included staff from Local Councils and a local community representative from Warrandyte.

The new strategy will take a broader view of risk beyond just public land and identify areas of high risk across both public and private land.

In these high-risk areas, fire agencies can work with landowners to reduce risk across the landscape.

Risk modelling from the new strategy is already being drawn on by Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic), the CFA and local government to inform fuel reduction activities, engagement and education.

Once the strategy is released, FFMVic will run engagement sessions with CFA and council to communicate the strategy and what it means to the broader community. Due to current COVID -19 restrictions these are likely to run as online forums, in the first instance, to target both high risk communities and the broader community of the Greater Melbourne Area.

Fuel management

Fuel reduction activities in and around Warrandyte in the last five years reflect the overall risk reduction strategy being implemented on public land to reduce bushfire risk to Warrandyte and surrounding communities.

Mechanical treatment is the primary fuel reduction activity in this environment and burning is a complementary treatment that is applied in targeted locations.

Whilst private land is not in DELWP/FFMVic’s remit for fuel reduction, however FFMVic do support CFA to undertake fuel management on private property.

The government initiative Safer Together has provided a great (funded) initiative to work with communities.

Community Fire Safety

Fuel management is complemented by our approach to bushfire suppression. FFMVic has strong connections with CFA and FRV to ensure rapid first attack and suppression of fires in and around Warrandyte should they occur.

This integrated response applies to fires on both public and private land.

There will be seven Project Fire Fighters based at the Parks Victoria depot in Warrandyte this summer, in additional to permanent field staff, to undertake fire management and respond to fires.

FFMVic has strong links to the Warrandyte community and regularly participates in community fire awareness events alongside CFA and local government.

We have worked with the community to develop strategic bushfire management planning frameworks that:

  • Identify values to be protected from bushfire
  • assesses bushfire risk to those values, and
  • set out strategies to manage this risk.

If you would like more information about planned burns in your area, our joint fuel management program or how we manage our bushfire risk, visit: www.ffm.vic.gov.au/bushfirefuel-and-risk-management/planned-burning-in-Victoria

To see what the Victorian Auditor General’s audit of our program found, visit: www.audit.vic.gov.au/report/reducing-bushfire-risks