Fire in the Australian landscape has influenced the evolution and adaptation of many of our native plant species. Fire is also an essential part of property management planning and is a useful tool for reducing bushfire hazards. Landholders are legally required to reduce bushfire hazards on their land by reducing fuel loads. Aside from the use of fire, fuel loads can also be reduced by clearing, mowing, or slashing.
Total Fire Bans
Very hot, dry and windy days are classified as very high to extreme fire days where bushfires are more likely to spread and cause damage. Total Fire Bans are declared on these days to reduce the risk of fires destroying life, property and the environment. During a Total Fire Ban, no fire may be lit in the open and all fire permits are suspended. The ban applies to incinerators and barbecues which burn solid fuel, such as wood and charcoal, however, the use of a gas or electric barbecue is permitted if:
- It is on a residential property within 20m of the house or dwelling,
- It is a picnic area and the appliance and area are approved by council, National Parks or State Forests,
- It is under the direct control of an adult,
- The ground within 2m of the barbecue is cleared of all materials which could burn, or
- You have an immediate and continuous supply of water available.
Reducing Fire Risk on Your Property
Aside from the weather, other factors including the slope of the ground and amount of fire fuel also influence the way in which fire behaves and its potential risks to lives, property and the environment. You can reduce potential bushfire hazards and risks on your property by:
- Clearing volatile fuels such as grass, fallen leaves and bark from around property buildings,
- Removing overhanging trees and clearing leaves and twigs from roof gutters,
- Making use of watercourses and other natural features as firebreaks,
- Isolating potential fire sources such as incinerators and rubbish pits, and
- Assessing your water supply and storage in terms of quantity and availability for firefighting.
Remember though that native animals need houses too! Trees, shrubs, grasses, fallen logs and leaf litter provide habitat and protection for native wildlife as well as maintaining soil health and stability. So try to maintain these features outside your asset protection zones.
Before Lighting a Fire
When undertaking hazard reduction burning, there are two types of approvals you may need. These include:
- Environmental approvals: a Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificate is the main environmental approval you will require when lighting a fire. It is for bushfire hazard reduction work only and is required if the bush fire hazard reduction effects native vegetation, could threaten endangered species, or result in air or water pollution or soil erosion. Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificates are not required for agricultural activities such as stubble burning, burning sugar cane, burning diseased crops, orchard pruning or grazing. Your local Rural Fire Service or Fire Brigade can issue a Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificate or direct you to your Local Council or the New South Wales Environmental Protection Authority (within the Department of Environment and Climate Change) where a more detailed assessment process may be required. The Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificate does not allow you to light a fire during the Bush Fire Danger Period.
- Permit to burn safely: is required for the lighting of any fire within the Bushfire Danger Period. This permit to burn safely is also required at anytime when a fire may pose a threat to a building.
Things to Remember:
For any open fire on land, whether you require approval or not, you must give 24 hours notice to all adjacent landholders and your Rural Fire Service NSW Fire Brigade station. You are also required to ensure that a fire is safe and under control at all times, and if you become aware that a fire is out of control (whether you lit it or not) you must take all possible steps to extinguish the fire. If you are unable to do this you must immediately call 000 to alert the nearest rural fire brigade or NSW Fire Brigade.
Climate and Weather
Our climate is changing, largely due to the observed increases in human produced carbon pollution. These changes we have seen over the 20th century include increases in global average air and ocean temperature, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global sea levels. The extra heat in the climate system has other impacts, such as affecting atmospheric and ocean circulation, which influences rainfall and wind patterns. Each decade in Australia since the 1940s has been warmer than the last - 2001 to 2010 was the warmest decade on record in Australia and around the globe.
The terms 'global warming' and 'climate change' are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference: Global warming is the gradual increase of the Earth's average surface temperature, due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Climate change is a broader term. It refers to long-term changes in climate, including average temperature and rainfall.
With the climate changing we can expect changes to our weather patterns over time, this will include an increase in tempreatures, extreme weather events, drought and fire risk, with a risk at more extreme El Nino events.