Monthly Archives: May 2019

Fighting Fire with Fire: Bushfire Prevention with Prescribed Burning

view of a burning residential area near a mountainAustralia is a popular tourist and migrant destination because of the diversity of its picturesque landscapes and seascapes. The country owes its cornucopia of plants and animals to its two distinct climate zones. All the wonder doesn’t come with its own issues, however. Australia’s climate makes it prone to natural disasters, particularly bushfires.

Over the years, the devastation caused by these fires has resulted in irreparable damage across the continent. With climate change causing wetter weather conditions in the country to decline, the risk for bushfires and grassfires in a country already prone it has only grown.

As such, government bodies and private organisations are constantly developing methods to prevent bushfires. These solutions range from the mundane, such as educating the public, to the extreme, like prescribed burning.

The Solution: Prescribed Burning

The Parks and Wildlife Service, as authorised by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, has adopted prescribed burning as a countermeasure to bushfires. Otherwise known as controlled or planned burns, this prevention method uses scientific research and historical data to determine which areas will benefit from it.

  • What is the purpose of prescribed burning?

The Parks and Wildlife Service facilitates prescribed burns to mitigate the severity of bushfires and grassfires. The planned burns decrease the amount of fallen bark and leaf litter in high-risk areas. As one of the main causes of natural bushfires and grassfires, the reduction of fuel loads effectively lowers the risk. Additionally, this prevention method works towards the maintenance of Australia’s biodiversity as it improves habitat niches for plants and animals.

  • How is prescribed burning carried out?

Once authorities determine which vegetation to burn at a prescribed intensity, representatives from the Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) administer the exercise. Dressed in the appropriate safety apparel, these representatives ignite controlled flames with drip torches.

  • Is prescribed burning safe?

Prior to this exercise, communities are informed to allow them to prepare in case the fires get out of hand. With the participation of the DFES, emergency measures, such as fire engines and emergency gear like PAPR respirators and flame retardant blankets, are made available. Although prescribed burns have a low risk of going out of control, safeguards are still put in place for unpredictable weather changes.

The Effectiveness of Prescribed Burning

burning mountainSeveral studies over the years have proven the effectiveness of prescribed burning. In one case study, it was observed that wild bushfires decreased in intensity and spread rate when it entered an area that was subjected to a prescribed burn. The lack of fuel load greatly contributed to the fires’ weakened state.

However, much like other preventive measures, prescribed burning has its caveat. Recent research and reviews have found that for the method to be more effective, implementation techniques must be improved. Currently, prescribed burns are not optimised to completely prevent bushfires.

As climate change continues to play a bigger role in the ignition of bushfires and grassfires, the need for better safeguards is necessary. For prescribed burnings to remain effective, the proper authorities must invest in the method’s improvement and optimisation. This, along with other preventive measures, can help protect Australia’s beautiful landscape.