Australia — Burn-offs on public land will cover a massive area, more than double the size of last year’s, to help protect the state from bushfires.
The Department for Environment and Heritage will burn 79 areas, totalling 17,363ha, this spring and next autumn.
This compares to 45 burn-offs covering 7958ha last financial year and 39 areas burned in the 2007-08 season, totalling 4960ha.
More than a quarter, or 22, of the burns will be completed in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region.
This spring 8246 hectares of public land will be burned across the state – 7700 in the Murraylands alone – to control fuel loads, which could send a bushfire out of control.
The Adelaide region will have the second largest area of public land burned this spring but the highest number of burns, with 273 hectares scheduled in 15 burns before the summer fire danger season starts in late November or early December.
Department spokesman Stephen Cox said some burns scheduled for the 2008-09 burning season could not take place and would be completed as part of this year’s program.
“Our burning seasons were even shorter than usual in 2008-09 due to the long, hot summer and the high rainfall period which occurred in May,” Mr Cox said.
“This resulted in the fuel loads either being too dry or too wet to burn for much of the year.
“We must also recognise that prescribed burning is not the panacea for managing bushfire risk and there will be extreme conditions where prescribed burns will have limited effect.”
The Bushfire Taskforce is expected to provide its report to State Cabinet this week on changes to the bushfire warning system.
The department, ForestrySA, Native Vegetation Council and Country Fire Service conduct prescribed burns every year in spring and autumn to reduce the risk of bushfire in vegetated areas and reduce the intensity of bushfires which do occur.
Most burns in spring occur towards the end of September when vegetation is drier and before weather conditions become too hazardous.
A further 9123 hectares will be burned across the state next autumn.
SA Water is also planning five burns in the next three months at Warren, Milbrook and Mount Bold reservoirs in the Adelaide Hills, Lincoln basin on Eyre Peninsula and Middle River on Kangaroo Island and will advise the public when dates are known.
It has bought eight firefighting vehicles since the Mount Bold bushfire in 2007 to support firefighting efforts in a bushfire.
A spokesman said water quality and future runoff could be affected if a large and intense bushfire burned reservoir catchments but its network of treatment plants would protect water quality.