Fire Operations Planning

Between June and August 2017, the three-year Fire Operations Plan (FOP) was updated for the 2017–20 period, and the Chief Fire Officer approved it on 10 November 2017. the plan includes all planned fuel management activities including planned burning, slashing, mowing and clearing works, creating and maintaining fuel breaks and carrying out maintenance on fire infrastructure (such as fire dams and lookout towers).

The 2018–21 FOP is currently being updated and is due for approval in November 2018. The Approved fire operations plan webpage will be updated after it is approved.

From the end of 2018, Forest Fire Management Victoria and the Country Fire Authority will jointly manage operations under the Joint Fire Management Plan (JFMP), which will cover all fuel management activities on public and private land.

Planning preparation and delivery of fuel reduction activities to keep bushfire risk below 70%

Planned burning is a complex activity that can only be carried out when the weather and fuel conditions allow it to be done safely. 2017 was Victoria’s sixth-warmest year on record and came with lower-than-average rainfall followed by a dry start to 2018.

Autumn 2018 was a challenging season for planned burning, due to very dry conditions and periods of high fire danger into April. Planned burning started later than normal, and opportunities were limited due to poor weather conditions. We prioritised for burning the areas where we could achieve the greatest risk reduction and for which we had the right conditions for burning.

The planned burning season did not continue much longer than normal: the natural cooling, reduced drying and lower solar incidence meant any moisture and rainfall had significant impacts on available fuels through May.

The underlying dryness did provide opportunities for planned burning in damper types of forests, which usually remain wet after the autumn break.

The season was ultimately characterised as challenging, limited and interspersed with high-fire-risk periods. Despite this, we maintained bushfire risk below the 70% state target by prioritising burns that delivered the best risk reductions.

Below are the key statistics about our activities to keep bushfire risk below 70% for Victoria.

Table 1: Burn planning, site preparation and fuel reduction activities statewide, 2017-18

Bushfire risk target for Victoria at all times70%
Bushfire risk for Victoria in 2017-201866%
Burn planning and site preparation
Approved burn plan area (ha)248,427 ha
Planned burn field site preparation completed (ha).274,829 ha
Hazardous trees removed (kilometres of roadside treated)709 km
Fuel reduction

Area treated by planned burning:

66,034 ha
Area treated by other fuel management methods9,790 ha
Total area of fuel reduction management towards bushfire risk target (ha)

75,824 ha

Table 2. Cross tenure planned burns 2017-2018*

RegionNumber of burnsArea (ha)
Barwon South West5241
Loddon Mallee00
Port Phillip9394

* These planned burns are part or wholly on private property within 1.5 km of public land.

What is a planned burn breach?

A planned burn breach is considered to have gone beyond control lines if it spreads beyond the area designated in the burn plan. It cannot be readily controlled with on-site or planned resources and compromises the burn objectives.

A planned burn beyond control lines is classified as a breach or a bushfire depending on its extent and effect on the community.

A breach is likely to be controlled within reasonable timeframes for fire response and does not pose a significant threat to, or have a significant effect on, assets or the community. As part of our continuous improvement processes, we review all breaches.

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management (IGEM) is notified of all planned burn breaches.

Planned burn breach 2017-18

There was one planned burn breach this year on French Island, 5 km east north east of Tankerton. The planned burn was 47 ha, and the area of breach was 12 ha.

An ecological burn in a Land Management Zone on French Island National Park was ignited on 9 May 2017 and breached control lines the same day. The fire behaviour in the burn led to spot overs occurring outside the control line in an adjacent contingency area on public land. We could not readily suppress these spot overs due to safety concerns, so we activated the contingency plan. This included conducting suppression at a fall-back line by using direct attack on any spot overs into the adjoining grassed areas. This resulted in about 12 ha of forested land in the contingency area and 0.48 ha of grassland on private land being burnt.

Bushfire response

In the 2017-18 season, we attended 1,603 bushfires on about 64,000 ha of public and private land. Three large fires in March, driven by strong winds, burnt grazing land and destroyed 26 structures, 10,000 tonnes of hay and over 2,000 km of fencing.  About 3,000 animals – mainly sheep and dairy cattle – died.

The season began very early in September with an 8,000 ha fire at Timbarra, Gippsland. The three largest bushfires all occurred in Gippsland, and drought conditions in East Gippsland caused much-higher-than-normal risk of bushfires spreading. The fires were at:

  • Tamboritha – Dingo Hill Track (10,839 ha)
  • Cann River – Mueller’s Track (9,747 ha)
  • Timbarra – Sunny Point (8,120 ha).

The Tamboritha fire was started by an escaped campfire, but it was managed within an area planned for burning during autumn, and a good result was achieved.

During the year, Victorian firefighters were deployed to support firefighters in Canada, the United States of America, and South Australia, all of which had challenging fire seasons. Firefighters from New South Wales and South Australia helped respond to Victorian bushfires.

Page last updated: 20/11/18