Academic downplays burn-off forest fears

Academic downplays burn-off forest fears

25 August 2011

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Australia — A bushfire expert says central Victorian forests will not be destroyed by an increase in fuel reduction burning.

Local environmental groups say they are concerned the Bushfires Royal Commission’s recommendation to increase planned burns could harm central Victoria’s box ironbark forests.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) wants to more than double its fuel reduction targets for the Murray Goldfields Fire District this season, to 14,000 hectares.

Melbourne University’s Kevin Tolhurst says the targets are appropriate, as long as the burns are done at a low intensity.

“Box ironbark forest has a history of fire in it and all areas have specific values and assets that need to be protected but the box ironbark in particular are well suited to frequent low intensity fire,” he said.

Meanwhile, the DSE and Parks Victoria are hiring hundreds of seasonal firefighters ahead of the fire season.

About 600 project firefighters will help 1,400 permanent staff with fire suppression and prevention works.

The DSE’s Tony Edgar says new firefighters are trained before taking to the field.

“We have primarily employed them in the past for fire suppression duties but they’re also used for preparedness activities and increasingly in our planned burning program,” he said.

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