Why hazard reduction burns are so important

Hazard reduction burns at Luddenham on Wednesday. Picture: Sophie Harris
Hazard reduction burns at Luddenham on Wednesday. Picture: Sophie Harris

It’s not until fire burns out of control that you realise just how important hazard reduction burns are.

Rural Fire Service workers toil long and hard to ensure people and homes are protected in the dangerous fire seasons.

Macarthur RFS fire mitigation officer Rodney Fenech said planned burns were all about minimising the risk to people, homes, the environment and wildlife in the event of a blaze.

“We try to reduce the amount of available fuel for a fire,” he said.

“This helps reduce the intensity of a wildfire.

“It makes it safer and more manageable for firefighters and the public.”

The RFS will identify areas of risk and calculate how much ‘fuel’ – vegetation found on the ground, also called ‘groundfuel’ – is in an area and work to safely and securely eliminate that risk.

Mr Fenech said hazard reduction burns were a preventative measure and involved much liaising with local stakeholders including land managers and government departments.

He said, despite the common perception, hazard reduction burns are quite different from backburning.

Hazard reduction burns at Luddenham on Wednesday. Picture: Sophie Harris

Hazard reduction burns at Luddenham on Wednesday. Picture: Sophie Harris

“A hazard reduction burn is a planned, coordinated event,” Mr Fenech said.

“It’s conducted in a controlled environment to reduce the severity of possible wildfires.

“Backburning operations happen during wildfire events.

“They involve setting up containment lines and burning up fuel to prevent the spread of the fire.

“It’s fighting fire with fire.”

If hazard reduction burns and backburning operations are not undertaken, fires can spread far more rapidly and severely.

Mr Fenech said the benefits such actions caused far outweighed any potential inconvenience or discomfort caused by poor air quality during the operations.

A hazard reduction burn was scheduled for the Liverpool Military Area on Saturday, but was called off due to bad weather and windy conditions.

A fire, believed to be deliberately lit, started at the same location that day and quickly spread out of control.

Homes were threatened in the Sutherland Shire area and more than 500 firefighters worked around the clock to contain the blaze.

The RFS has been hard at work since the weekend’s fire, completing preventative burns in Macarthur in the past week.

About 150 hectares were burned at Burragorang Look Road near Nattai Village.

Almost 10,000 hectares is set to be burnt in Blue Mountains National Park in the coming days, including parts of Wollondilly.

To keep up to date with hazard reduction burns visit www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.

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