Image for Tasmanian fuel reduction program an Australian first

Lilydale blanketed by burn-off smoke, March 2010 ...

Tasmanian communities will be safer from the threat of bushfires, with a ground-breaking new $28.5 million program of fuel reduction burns announced today.

Tasmania is the first state in Australia to initiate a whole-of-state ‘tenure-blind’ fuel reduction program, taking a scientific and coordinated approach to burns on both public and private land to address the highest risk areas of the state, regardless of who owns or manages the land.

Funded by the Tasmanian Government, the four-year program will see the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) work alongside the Parks and Wildlife Service and Forestry Tasmania, to oversee and provide critical information about fuel reduction burns to the public.

The State Fire Management Council (SFMC) developed the program following the inquiry into the Tasmanian bushfires of January 2013 and the Royal Commission into the Victorian bushfires of February 2009.

SFMC Chair Ian Sauer said bushfire was the most costly natural disaster in Tasmania’s history, in both human and economic terms.

“Tasmania is one of the most bushfire-prone areas in the world. Fire is a natural and fundamental part of our environment, but the effects of an uncontrolled fire can be devastating,” Mr Sauer said.

“Fuel reduction burning will not prevent bushfires, but it will minimise their potential damage and make it easier and safer for firefighters to control fires.”

Mr Sauer said the SFMC had commissioned computer modelling and combined the results with local knowledge to identify the areas of the state that posed the greatest risk of bushfire.

“Based on a statewide appreciation of bushfire risk, strategically selecting priority areas of the landscape for burning, regardless of whether it comprises private or state-owned land, will be more effective in creating safer communities than broad-area burning in remote locations,” he said.

“Bushfires do not respect property boundaries, and in areas where private land poses a significant bushfire risk, the TFS will contact private land owners to offer assistance where it is needed.

“The inclusion of private land is a significant shift in current fuel reduction practices and success will rely on the cooperation of private land owners in those high priority areas.”

The TFS will provide a constantly updated schedule of fuel reduction burns through local media and online via the website, which features a map of planned and current burns.

Regularly updated information will also be provided through the Tasmania Fire Service’s social media accounts.

Every effort will be made to reduce the impact of smoke, and smoke warnings will continue to be provided through the Asthma Foundation of Tasmania’s online Smoke Alert Tasmania service.

“We may not achieve a complete success on every attempt, but every burn will be carefully planned to minimise the risk to those carrying out the burn and surrounding communities,” Mr Sauer said.

“The program aims to protect homes, businesses, critical community infrastructure and the natural environment through an appropriate and collaborative approach.”