Landscape scale burning in the ‘backcountry’

Landscape scale burning may be defined as ‘applying planned fire at varying intensities, scales and times within a broader landscape to create patches (a mosaic) of burnt and unburnt areas that change over time’. The size of the burning is related to the scale of the landscape. We also refer to this as ‘backcountry burning’. Backcountry burning of large tracts of forested public land, particularly in eastern Victoria, requires planned burns at the scale of tens of thousands of hectares.

Landscape scale burning aims to protect human life and property by reducing fuel loads and the arrangement of fuel types (i.e. surface, elevated and bark fuel), which influence the fire behaviour, and thereby reduces the size and intensity of a bushfire, making it easier for firefighters to control. Fires in the backcountry may be caused by lightning strikes and are often in remote and difficult to access locations. It is when these fires get to a large size, they potentially become damaging to local communities. Landscape scale burns also aims to enhance ecological diversity by creating a mosaic of different vegetation growth stages and habitats within a treated area.

A landscape scale burn consists of several areas of different fire severity, they are usually large (thousands of hectares) and are bounded, where possible, by existing natural or constructed fuel breaks, such as waterways, rocky areas or roads. Landscape scale burns are usually conducted over a period of several years. Some areas may be treated one year, and others treated the following or subsequent years. To be effective landscape scale burning needs to be done at a frequency that ensures lower levels of fuel hazard over a broad area. This strategy is an important way to introduce fire into the areas that were affected by the fires in 2003 and 2006–7 that are of uniform age and growth stage structure.

The mosaic effect of landscape scale burning is likely to benefit biodiversity by reducing the extent and severity of large-scale fire and by creating a range of vegetation growth stages and habitats that suit different species. This is achieved by leaving patches of unburnt vegetation that can act as animal refuge after fire.

Victoria has seen the environmental impact of intense and large-scale fires such as those that occurred in 2003, 2006–7 and 2009, which burnt about 3 million hectares of public land. Landscape scale burns is one way that Forest Fire Management Victoria aims to minimise the potential for this to occur again.

Page last updated: 23/12/20