Australia — The ACT government will spend $8.8 million burning, slashing and grazing more than 20,500 hectares of land across the territory this financial year to try to limit the impact of bushfires.
The operations program will also include improving and maintaining fire trails and access roads, and physically removing fire fuel from 65 hectares of land. But it will conduct hazard reduction burns on little more than half the area covered last year.
According to ACT Emergency Services, there were 223 bush and grass fires in the territory last season.
The official bushfire season in the ACT began on October 1 and the ACT Rural Fire Service has said its members face similar fire conditions to last year.
Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said his directorate was taking a strategic approach to hazard reduction but it could not eliminate the risk of fire.
”There is a high risk this season, particularly with grass fires with some of the rainfall we’ve had earlier in the spring and forecast warm conditions, and both TAMS and the whole community will have to remain vigilant about fires,” he said.
The directorate plans to burn off more than 6500 hectares this financial year in the Aranda bushland, Black Mountain, Red Hill, Kowen Forest and other areas.
Last year, it conducted more than 42 controlled burns totalling about 12,500 hectares.
A spokeswoman for Mr Rattenbury said last year’s 6000-hectare burn at Namadgi National Park, the largest in the ACT in three decades, had cumulative benefits and the need for hazard reduction burns varied from year to year.
At this time of year, the directorate focused on grazing and slashing as fuel reduction methods, Mr Rattenbury said, with hazard-reduction burns generally being carried out in autumn.
This year’s program sought to specifically address the risk of grass fires, expected to be the biggest fire risk this season, he said.
The minister said TAMS had a responsibility to manage fuel loads across the ACT landscape and since the 2003 fires the approach had been significantly enhanced with mapping of vegetation throughout the territory.
”We now have, through the strategic bushfire management plan, a long-term approach to managing fuel starting to create a mosaic effect so even if a fire does break out, there’s an attempt to limit how far it can spread,” he said.
”Weather conditions and other factors will always be an element, but it’s about minimising risk and trying to ensure there’s not a large continuous area that a fire can burn through.”
After a hot day on Thursday and a total fire ban, ACT Emergency Services Agency rated the fire danger in the ACT as low/moderate for Saturday, with a top temperature of 24 degrees predicted.
The Bureau of Meteorology is not predicting any very hot days next week, with the warmest peak temperatures of 26 degrees on Sunday and Thursday.
Monday is expected to see a return to cooler weather, reaching a top of just 17 degrees.