Tag Archives: Risk-based approaches

Don’t miss Talking Fire – register now

Talking Fire picsCome along to Talking Fire, 12-13 November. It’s free and you can come for the whole weekend, or drop in for a day or a session.

Talking Fire is about our local community, and fire in our local landscape. How can we work better as a community to reduce the risk to us – to our homes, families and friends – as well as protect our forests, wildlife and cultural sites? Talking Fire won’t be anything like the standard annual fire briefing!

Saturday will start at 10am with a welcome to Country, short talks on cultural burning, ecology, local fire experiences and fire myths with speakers Trent Nelson, Professor Andrew Bennett, Joan Sartori and Sam Strong.  Then we’ll head out to Mt Tarrengower to hear from long-term fire spotter Peter Skilbeck. Then we will visit the Muckleford Forest to look at how the forest has recovered after the 1981 fire and the more recent planned burns, with guides Paul Bates (DELWP), Tanya Loos, David Cheal and others. Instead you can drop into the Newstead Community Centre and record your fire stories with Gordon Dowell, or map favourite places that you’d like to see protected from fire. Everyone will come together at 3.30 to share what we have learnt, and set the scene for Sunday.

Sunday morning starts at 10.30, and our focus will be on risk. We’ll hear about landscape-scale fire planning from Alison Boak (DELWP), community planning around risk from Steve Pascoe, and vegetation and fire from David Cheal, fire ecologist. Turning to the local scene, representatives from our local brigades and the Shire will look at how local planning could reduce risk.

After lunch, provided by Newstead Men’s Shed and Community Garden, Jinette de Gooijer will facilitate an exploration of ideas and options on how we might respond – as a community – to what we have learnt over the weekend.

What will come out of Talking Fire? That is in the hands of everyone who comes and contributes! So come along. Register via our website – talkingfire.org – it only takes a minute and it’s free.

Thanks to Mount Alexander Shire Community Grants, Maldon & District Community Bank (Bendigo Bank), and the Norman Wettenhall Foundation for funding support, and to all the local organisations and individuals who are helping make Talking Fire a reality.

Maldon, Newstead and places in between – Talking Fire


Join us in a conversation to better understand fire in our landscape at the Newstead Community Centre over the weekend of 12/13 November.

‘Talking Fire’ will discuss what fire means for our local communities and the environment. The aim is to bring local expertise and knowledge together with outside experts in the field of fire behaviour and fire ecology, so that the community can talk about and better understand, plan, and live with fire.

Some of the questions driving our conversation are:

  • What is the history of fire in our area?
  • How have the landscape, community & fire policies changed?
  • How can we protect what we value?
  • How can we respond to fire risk, now & in the future?

You may have other questions, ideas or solutions.

We are also seeking local knowledge and stories. Do you have a “fire experience”, direct or indirect, to share? As a part of the weekend Gordon Dowell will be recording the stories and histories of locals. The Newstead CFA Auxiliary are amongst those we will be keen to hear from.

We hope that from the weekend our local landscape can be seen anew, through the eyes of scientists, fire experts and long lived locals alike, and through a wider, “landscape lens”, not just from a household or property viewpoint.

Whether you live in Newstead or Maldon town, or the bush and farmland surrounds, we invite you along to ‘talk fire’. Come to any or all sessions. The event is free, but we need bookings to help our caterers, the Newstead Preschool and Mens’ Shed, provide enough for all.

Thanks to Mount Alexander Shire, Maldon & District Community Bank and Norman Wettenhall Foundation for supporting the event. Many more supporters are contributing in non-financial ways. See our website http://www.talkingfire.org and to book.

Please download and share our flier too, and look for Talking Fire on Facebook.

Talking Fire: A Community Conversation (12-13 November, Newstead)

Our Community Conversation will explore many questions. For example: Will bush regeneration change fire risk?

Our Community Conversation will explore many questions. For example: Will bush regeneration change fire risk?

Muckleford Forest Friends Group has received a grant through the Mount Alexander Shire Council 2016 Community Grants Program to present a Community Conversation on Understanding fire in our landscape.

The idea comes from the Newstead Community Plan, and reflects a concern about the way that prescribed burning has targeted public land without a landscape-wide consideration of risk and risk reduction. The new approach adopted by the State Government – Safer Together – suggests that new approaches are possible, and that it is a good time to open up a community-wide conversation.

During the weekend we will explore the history of fire in the Newstead-Maldon landscape, looking back to land and fire management practices of the Jaara people, reflecting on landscape changes, mapping what we value, and building an understanding of risk and different ways to we can respond to risk.

This event is being designed for in Newstead, Maldon and everywhere in between and close by!

Planning is underway for the weekend and we’d welcome your input – ideas, possible speakers, helping planning walks and site visits, sourcing maps and resources – and of course coming along and being part of the Community Conversation. Able to help? Please email mucklefordffg@bigpond.com

This project is supported through the Mount Alexander Shire Council 2016 Community Grants Program, auspiced by MULGA (Maldon Urban Landcare Group), and supported by local groups including Newstead Landcare, Muckleford Catchment Landcare, Newstead 2021, Connecting Country, Newstead CFA Brigade.

You can download a summary of the grant application here and also look at page 42 of the Newstead Community Plan.


A new year

Its been a long time between posts on this blog – apologies.

Based on the outcome of the last Fire Operations Plan consultations and our continued advocacy, the Muckleford Forest now has no planned burns scheduled. There are proposals for planned burns in Goughs Range and Mt Tarrangower – but not this year.

Since the Fire Operations Plan was finalised, the Lancefield fires have happened. A planned burn that went seriously wrong. The report is now out on that burn, and in recent days, the media has been full of criticism about what has been happening down on the Otways’ coast. Terrible experiences for all those involved.

Here is a good article by Phil Ingamells from the Sunday Age on prescribed burning – limits to fuel reduction burning.

What astonishes me is that we think that we can ‘manage’ nature by going in and lighting up the bush, but without the resources to control what we start.

And when I talk to a lot of people about ‘bushfires’, they believe that most are arson – deliberately lit! Not sure if my sample is mainly urban folks, but as a country dweller I know that most fires are ‘accidental’.

Reducing these accidental fires seems to be an important and ignored goal – the slasher or the motor bike in the very dry paddock grass, the car driving into grass beside the road, the grinder in the shed where the sparks stream out … no doubt there are many other careless things that any of us might do one day, by just not thinking.

But if we stopped these careless, accidental fires, we would cut the ‘fire toll’ remarkably. Most fires are not deliberately lit – they are humans being careless. We need to manage ourselves – our actions. We are the major makers of fire and we are the threat to the bush – not the bush to us.



Our submission to the “Review of the hectare-based performance targets”

Below is our brief submission to the Review of performance targets for bushfire fuel management on public land being conducted by the Inspector-General for Emergency Management. It was submitted on behalf of the Muckleford Forest Friends Network, a loose alliance of individuals and groups who are concerned about the public land reserves that make up this connected group of forests that stretch from Newstead to Maldon.

Phascogale (Museum of Victoria image)

Phascogale (Museum of Victoria image)

13 March 2015

Inspector-General for Emergency Management, Department of Justice & Regulation, GPO Box 4356, Melbourne VIC 3001

Dear Sir/Madam

Submission to: Review of performance targets for bushfire fuel management on public land

This submission is made on behalf of a network of individuals and several local groups that live near the Muckleford Forest in Central Victoria. This Forest comprises the Muckleford State Forest, Maldon Historic Reserve and the Muckleford Nature Conservation Reserve.It is an important remnant Box-Ironbark forest that stretches between Newstead and Maldon and connects a number of private property bushland areas.

This group formed as result of concerns about the hectare-based target established by the Bushfires Royal Commission and we have been active contributors to Fire Operations Planning in this district as well as to broader consultations on the proposed risk landscapes approach. We have also been liaising with other groups across the state that share our concerns and have presented our views publicly. WE have tried to take a positive and proactive approach, and are currently engaged in submitting data on significant species in the Muckleford Forest to the Victorian Biodiversity Atlas. Some members of the network have been documenting important local species for many years and have a wealth of knowledge.

Target-based approach

Our experience with the target-based approach is that:

  • Large areas zoned Landscape Management Zone have been burnt in the Muckleford Forest to meet the target, and further areas are proposed for this autumn, autumn 2016 and beyond
  • The zoning “Landscape Management Zone” indicates that these areas are NOT designated as contributing to strategic risk-reduction
  • The size of the prescribed burns and the available departmental resources has meant that the burns were NOT conducted so as to meet the requirements under the Code nor the FOP
  • The objectives for the Landscape Management Zone are typically expressed as: “an irregular mosaic of areas of fuel reduction which will complement works in adjacent fire management zones and can assist in ecological resilience and forest regeneration” – the planned burns based on hectare targets are not able to achieve this objective. A mosaic burn was not possible in the last large-scale burn in the southern part of the Muckleford Forest according to DSE/DEPI officers in charge and it was certainly not achieved.
  • The prescriptions designed to protect significant species such as the Brush-Tailed Phascogale were not implemented, in fact no attempt was made to apply this prescription despite the fact that this forest is a known stronghold for this FFG species.
  • The burn plans – that is how the burn will be implemented – are secret documents, despite the fact that we and many other people have contributed information in relation to these burns, we are never allowed to see the burn plan nor the post-burn review.

To sum up, we are completely dissatisfied with the hectare-based targets. We think that the way they are being used is damaging the Muckleford Forest, and no doubt many other places across Victoria.

Risk-based approach

First, the concept of a risk-based approach is a good one. But it must focus on the range of ways that need to be used to reduce risk, not just on fuel reduction.

We have participated in the consultations on the “risk landscapes” approach and consider that it is a step in the right direction. The development of computer modelling of bushfire behaviour for example could be of great value, as is the identification of significant ecological areas, although the work on the latter is still based on a significant paucity of data. The “risk landscapes” approach has some serious limitations:

  • the vast size of the “risk landscape” – in our case from Brunswick to Bendigo – which means it is not sensitised to the variety of landscapes, vegetation types and patterns nor to their ecological needs for fire or not (the Box Ironbark forest is not reliant of fire for regeneration for example)
  • the limited time and resources that have gone into these projects has limited to the ability of the dedicated teams to produce an effective outcome.

The focus on fuel distorts reality. Fuel does not cause fires – mostly it is people who do. Most fires are caused by humans – accidently, carelessly or sometimes deliberately. Tackling the cause requires education and awareness, and probably more enforcement. And while people are misled into believing that “forest fuel” is the problem, real risk-awareness and effective mitigation across our communities will not be possible.

The other aspect of a risk-based approach is “risk to what”. We think that the risks to be considered are is more than just risk to humans, although we agree that human life is precious. The pleasures of living in rural areas derives from our environment and our communities. A risk-based approach needs to consider:

  • human life
  • critical infrastructure
  • the natural environment and other living species – on public and private land
  • our towns, villages and productive farming lands.

Managing for ecological resilience

Today our forests are small remnants. They are at risk in this area from grass fires on private land. They are also at risk because of past land management practices.

We would advocate for forest recovery plans – to build the resilience of forests like the Muckleford Forest. Fire may be part of a land management practice designed to recover ecological resilience in some forests, but this requires more knowledge and a different approach to the application of fire than has been delivered by the destructive hectare-based targets.

We hope that this important review will resultant in an immediate moratorium on Landscape Management Zone burns in this area and across the Box-Ironbark forests. Instead, let’s focus on risk-reduction and ecological resilience.

Burning news

More rain means burns will start in central Victoria

The ABC reported today that the Bendigo regional office of the Department of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning is hoping for more rain so that their prescribed burning can start – the 5% target is still driving burning across Victoria! See below the photo for what was reported.

What has happened to the risk-based approach promised by the Department and the government?

In a recent letter (27.2.2015) to Environment East Gippsland, the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water, Lisa Neville said:

Lisa Neville letter extract (27.2.2015)

What does this mean? With a burn scheduled for Donkey Farm Track in the Maldon Historic Reserve this autumn, and many questions as yet unanswered, we’ll be on the email to Paul Bates, DELWP straight away.  The extraordinary lack of biodiversity data is of serious concern as is the idea of continuing with burns to meet a target that is currently under review and that demonstrably is not focused on reducing risk to human life or assets.

Control burn ignited

(From the ABC)

Authorities say conditions remain too dry for crews to start their autumn fuel reduction work in central Victoria.

Environment Department staff are hoping to do about 40 burns in the Murray Goldfields region before cooler and wetter weather arrives.

However, district manager Paul Bates said more rain was needed before crews could get to work.

“So conditions are still dry but we look at soil dryness as a measure or one of the reasons why we’d start burning in autumn,” he said.

“What we’re waiting for now is some follow-up rain to take place. We need about 20-30mm of rain just to provide a bit more moisture into the forest and once we get that we’d be able to start burning.

“As I say, if we get 20-30mm of rain it’ll bring us into a position where we could start burning.”

(Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-02/hope-for-more-rain-before-autumn-fuel-reduction/6273116)