Gippsland fires up : successful start to early fuel reduction burns

Gippsland fires up : successful start to early fuel reduction burns

01 March 2011

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Australia — Work is underway to reduce the fire risk for Australia’s most fire prone areas.

There is smoke across the s/e of Australia as fire authorities commence annual fuel or hazard reduction in bushfire areas either side of the Victorian and NSW state border.

This means native bush and forest re-growth is strategically burnt in order to lessen the chance of summer bushfires.

Victorian authorities were criticised after the most tragic loss of life for not doing enough of this hazard reduction so how much burning off needs doing this year as conditions improve after drought extremes?

Steve de Voogd, Victorian DSE manager at Orbost says he is involved with widespread fuel reduction in forestry and bush for the department of sustainability and environment.

He says 200,000 hectares is Victoria’s state wide target this year, up 30 per cent as a result of the Royal Commission outcome in Victoria’s most recent bushfire deaths.

“What you have seen this year is a much earlier start, and that is based on the favourable conditions.”

He says wetter conditions have created a good environment for conducting annual autumn fuel reduction work.

“This year we have been able to start into some larger burns a fair bit earlier, and we are a good couple of weeks ahead of where ahead of where we might have been given the seasonal conditions and the weather patterns.”

Steve de Voogd says there are various types of burns, depending on the terrain, landscape and intended outcome.

“There are multiple aims.”

The various fuel reduction burns include small 20 or so hectare burns to protect rural communities, or hazard or fuel reduction ecological burns in a mosaic pattern that protect communities longer term.

He says there have also been 20 forestry regeneration burns that are conducted after harvesting to stimulate the release of eucalypt seeds to re-establish forest for harvest.

“They create a nice ash bed for the seed.”

Steve de Voogd says that so far approximately 5,000 hectares have been burnt by DSE in Gippsland.

Fire sizes range from 400 hectares near coastal Lakes Entrance to 3,500 hectares in high country Benambra, and 4,500 hectares at Anglers reach west of Omeo.

The NSW Rural Fire Service, National Parks and other land managers are also undertaking hazard or fuel reduction in forest lands of south eastern NSW.

In east Gippsland, extensive burning started last week with a 350 hectare burn near the high country state border in the Bonang district.

There are over 10,000 hectares identified in DSE information provided for the past weekend’s areas to be burnt around Swifts Creek, Orbost, Heyfield, Bairnsdale and Orbost in Gippsland.

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