Strengthening and expanding Victoria’s network of Strategic Fuel Breaks is one of the key actions that form DELWP’s Advanced Forest and Fire Management strategy, designed to reduce the risk and impacts of more frequent, intense and damaging bushfires under a changing climate.
Fuel breaks are critical to protecting communities, catchments and the environment from devastation by bushfire. They do this by making it easier, faster and safer for firefighters to suppress fires.
As a last resort, they can also assist in reducing the intensity of direct fire on houses and other buildings.
The Victorian government has invested $35 million to deliver 1,447km of Strategic Fuel Breaks across Victoria by July 2022. These will be in the highest priority locations, close to townships, key assets, water catchments and sensitive environments, and in parts of the landscape where we want to reduce the size of fires.
Why is the Victorian Government investing $35 million in Strategic Fuel Breaks now?
Both the VAGO audit into Reducing Bushfire Risk, and the Inspector General for Emergency Management’s (IGEM) Inquiry into the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season, highlighted the strength of Victoria’s approach to managing bushfires and bushfire risk on public land. They recommended that Victoria both expand this approach and integrate it on private land to respond to the changing fire conditions.
The Victorian Government is taking the time to get this new approach right – while promptly acting on key recommendations that need to be implemented ahead of this fire season.
The $35 million investment will support Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) to lead this response, strengthening and expanding the network of fuel breaks across Victoria to respond to the immediate challenges caused by climate change and better prepare Victoria for future fires.
The investment over the target time period will also provide economic support to regions impacted by the 2019/2020 bushfires and COVID-19.
What are Strategic Fuel Breaks?
Strategic Fuel Breaks are a strip of land where vegetation has been permanently modified to reduce the rate of spread and intensity of fire for the direct protection of assets and/or assist fire control.
The last line of defence for the direct protection of communities and assets
Firefighters need to be able to move safely and seamlessly to carry out backburning operations to contain the spread of fires before they reach communities and assets.
Depending on their purpose, Strategic Fuel Breaks are fuel reduced areas up to 40m wide, that once established, will resemble open grassy wood or heath lands. They involve the permanent reduction of bushy vegetation through mulching and slashing, and the removal of hazardous trees and impediments to maintenance such as stumps, logs and branches.
What benefits will this deliver?
The bushfire management measures will:
- Provide increased protection to communities, environment and assets
- Improve access and egress of firefighting resources contributing towards suppression effectiveness and efficiency
- Enable firefighters to move seamlessly to undertake backburning operations to contain the spread of fires before they reach communities and assets.
- Support jobs and economic recovery in regional areas
- Respond to more frequent, intense and damaging bushfires under a rapidly changing climate
- Reduce costs and damages as assessed in previous large-scale bushfire events
What is the difference between a landscape protection break and an asset protection break?
The Strategic Fuel Break program is utilising two types of protection breaks in their work.
Landscape protection breaks (LPB)
Located in the forest to divide the landscape into units/areas suitable to help to reduce the fire to the smallest size possible. These breaks provide a platform for fighting fires in the forest and may also reduce fire impacts on nearby communities.
Before landscape protection break
After landscape protection break
Landscape protection break diagram key:
- Maintained ground veg
- Untreated ground veg
- Hazardous tree
- Diagram not to scale. Hadazardous trees beyond the break area that do not pose a risk to firefighter safety will be retained.
Asset protection breaks (APB)
Designed to provide direct protections of communities and assets from the direct impacts of fire. These breaks are generally located adjacent to townships and assets.
- Simple (constructed track)
- Hazardous trees removed
- Up to 50–70% canopy and stumps removed
- 40m modified zone
- Treated annually
Asset protection break (side view)
Asset protection break (top view)
- Track or slashed line
- Treated ground veg
- Untreated ground veg
- Hazardous tree
- Retained trees
Where will Strategic Fuel Breaks be delivered?
The delivery and/or upgrade of Strategic Fuel Breaks will be seen in each region across Victoria. The 2020/2021 financial year delivery target of 108 hectares of mechanical works and 484 kilometres of Strategic Fuel Breaks has been met. This includes the 257 km upgrade of the Cowwarr-Bruthen fuel break, which was initially constructed under emergency conditions during the Black Summer fires, as well as the construction or upgrade of 227 km of other breaks across Victoria .
Works to be conducted in the 2021/2022 financial year are currently in the planning stage.
What criteria are used to choose a location for a Strategic Fuel Break?
The Strategic Fuel Break locations for the 2021/2022 financial year will undergo a process of analysis, data validation and consultation before being prioritised on the basis of their value in assisting firefighters to reduce the spread of future bushfires and feasibility. These fuel breaks will be prioritised against a criterion to ensure the selected locations provide the greatest risk reduction to landscapes and assets, whilst considering impacts on species diversity, cultural heritage and tenure.
The location of Strategic Fuels Breaks designed to protect assets is strongly influenced by the proximity of fuels and likely paths for fire that might impact values and assets. As such, the preferred locations of asset protection breaks are often evident and is informed by sophisticated bushfire modelling.
Landscape protection breaks are located in the forest to divide the landscape into units/areas suitable to help to reduce the fire to the smallest size possible. These breaks provide a platform for fighting fires in the forest and may also reduce fire impacts on nearby communities. These break locations are determined by an understanding of where fires start and spread, and where firefighters are likely to need to fall back to undertake backburning operations. The design of these breaks is strongly influenced by fire control expertise.
DELWP will bring together the expertise of our land and fire managers with the knowledge of local communities and what they value. Local communities will be provided with information and opportunities to ask questions and share feedback, while local experts will be consulted as part of a rigorous engagement and validation process.
To get in contact with the Strategic Fuel Breaks Program please email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the the Joint Fuel Management Program (JFMP) where you can find plans and maps for your region, and ways to get involved in the development of the JFMP.
Page last updated: 07/12/21