Area planned for treatment
The area planned for treatment is the total area in hectares of land parcels for which we have completed operational fuel management planning. A region selects the parcels in line with its bushfire management strategies, and they become part of our rolling operational plan, the Joint Fuel Management Program (JFMP).
Area treated (by planned burning or non-burn fuel treatment)
The area treated is the area (in hectares) of land on which a fuel management treatment has been successfully undertaken to achieve a pre-defined fuel treatment objective. Planned burning makes up most of the fuel management across the year.
An example treatment is:
- treatment type: planned burning
- treatment objective: to reduce overall fuel hazard to below a moderate level over at least 70% of the planned area
- planned area (on JFMP): 100 ha
- outcome: planned burning resulted in 80% of the planned area having an overall fuel hazard below a moderate level. The fuel treatment objective was achieved in full: both the fuel hazard and area outcomes were achieved. The treated area is therefore 100 ha, equal to the planned area.
Each planned burn must have an approved burn plan, the requirements of which are specified in the Code of Practice for Bushfire Management on Public Land 2012. A plan includes a land management and treatment objective, the area of the burn, the type of fire management zone, how we will minimise impacts on particular values and how we will monitor and report the outcome of the burn.
The burn window is the suitable alignment of appropriate fuel moisture and weather conditions (both in the lead up to and the days following the burn ignition). Appropriate fuel moisture conditions must align with suitable weather conditions before we can do planned burning safely and effectively. Weather is a key determinant of when and how much planned burning can occur.
The burnt area is the total area in hectares that has burnt or been blackened within the area treated. Following a burn, we map the burnt area to ensure we have the most accurate information for risk modelling. The refinement of this mapping over time can have flow-on effects for our bushfire risk calculations, and as such we may update bushfire risk figures from year to year retrospectively.
Bushfire management strategy
Each of Victoria's regions has bushfire management strategies. These strategies explain the approach to fuel management and other actions in each region to minimise the impact of major bushfires on people, property, infrastructure and economic activity and maintain and improve the resilience of natural ecosystems. The strategies set out the location of fire management zones — Asset Protection Zone, Bushfire Moderation Zone, Landscape Management Zone and Planned Burning Exclusion Zone — on public land, to manage bushfire fuels through planned burning and other fuel management activities. The strategies also identify a cross-tenure approach, which highlights where fuel management is most effective to reduce risk on private and public land.
Bushfire risk is the likelihood of a fire starting, spreading and impacting on people, property and the environment – the things we care about most.
Victoria is particularly susceptible to large, intense bushfires which can spread up to 30 km or more across landscapes. This is due to Victoria's terrain, naturally flammable vegetation and frequent exposure to hot, dry, windy weather.
Factors which affect bushfire risk include the type and condition of fuels, weather, topography and the locations of people and assets, as well as our ability to prevent fires from igniting and to suppress them once they start.
DELWP models the amount of bushfire risk that remains after bushfires and fuel management activities reduce fuel. DELWP uses this modelled measure of bushfire risk as a performance indicator: that is DELWP aims to treat a sufficient area through planned burning and other treatments to maintain the statewide bushfire risk at or below 70 per cent.
Community-based bushfire management
Community-based bushfire management is a community-led approach that supports communities and agencies to better connect and make more-informed decisions. It includes working with communities to identify local priorities, develop mutual goals and solutions, build relationships and use locally tailored processes before, during and after bushfires.
A cross-tenure burn describes when a burn includes both public and private land. It is not a type of burn: see ‘Planned burns’ for definitions of types of burns.
Ecosystem resilience is the capacity of an area to absorb natural and management-imposed disturbance but still retain its basic structure (the abundance and composition of its species, the function of its vegetation and its types of vegetation) over time.
Fire management zones
For fuel management purposes, Victoria is classified into four fire management zones.
- Asset Protection Zone (APZ): using intensive fuel treatment, the APZ aims to provide the highest level of localised protection to human life and property and key community assets. The goal of fuel treatment is to reduce radiant heat and ember attack in the event of a bushfire. Fuel treatment will be carried out in the APZ through a combination of planned burning and other methods (such as mowing, slashing or vegetation removal).
Achieving the objectives of this zone may have negative impacts. Where this is likely, Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) will seek to moderate the negative impact as far as practicable.
- Bushfire Moderation Zone (BMZ): this zone aims to reduce the speed and intensity of bushfires. This zone complements the APZ in that the use of planned burning in the BMZ is designed to protect nearby assets, particularly from ember spotting during a bushfire. Where practicable, the BMZ will aim to achieve ecological outcomes by seeking to manage for ecologically desirable fire regimes, provided bushfire protection objectives can still be met. This may include using other fuel management methods.
- Landscape Management Zone (LMZ): Within this zone, planned burning will be used for three broad aims: bushfire protection outcomes by reducing the overall fuel and bushfire hazard in the landscape, ecological resilience through appropriate fire regimes and management of the land for particular values including forest regeneration and protection of water catchments at a landscape level. Other fuel reduction methods will be used within this zone as appropriate.
- Planned Burning Exclusion Zone (PBEZ): this zone excludes the use of planned burning primarily in areas where the vegetation is intolerant to fire.
A fuel break is a strip of land with less fuel available for a bushfire to burn. Fuel breaks may be natural, or they may be constructed by modifying or removing part of the vegetation structure (such as the lower and mid-storey vegetation) to reduce the potential for a bushfire to start, develop or spread. Fuel breaks also help us control fires. For example, we can quickly use a fuel break to back-burn ahead of an approaching bushfire or as a boundary to a planned burn. Fuel breaks tend to be 6–20 m wide.
Fuel breaks are sometimes referred to as strategic fuel breaks if they are identified as part of a long-term regional bushfire management strategy. Strategic fuel breaks complement other fire prevention and preparedness activities to protect communities and significant assets. Strategic fuel breaks tend to be wider: 20–80 m wide.
Fuel management activities include:
- planned burning (lighting and managing planned fires at times of lower bushfire risk for various reasons, such as to reduce leaf litter, twigs, bark and undergrowth); planned burns may be ignited all year round including over summer, but the majority of burns are done in autumn and spring
- non-burn fuel treatments (used to manage fuel through activities other than by planned burning), including:
– mechanical activities (such as mowing, slashing and mulching) where identified in the JFMP
– chemical activities (such as by using herbicide) where identified in the JFMP
– grazing by domestic stock (typically cattle or sheep), but it can only be accounted for as a fuel management activity if it is specifically undertaken to manage bushfire fuel by reducing and/or compacting the vegetation, most commonly grasses, and it is identified in the JFMP
– other fuel management activities approved by the Secretary of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
Growth stage structure
The growth stage structure (GSS) of an area of vegetation is its mix of vegetation of different ages, from juvenile to old. Vegetation's GSS depends on when it was last burnt or otherwise disturbed. We assume that diversity of GSSs and habitats across a landscape ensures a diversity of species, which helps maintain and improve ecosystem resilience. We manage fuel to ensure there is an acceptable mix of growth stages in the landscape and to protect important areas of older growth stages.
The growth stages we use are:
- juvenile: from immediate post-fire renewal to establishment including when species are reproductive
- adolescent: when vegetation is relatively young and all species are reproductive but not at the rate that characterises mature vegetation
- mature: when the dominant species are fully reproductive through to stasis, when vegetation structure and reproductive capacity stabilise
- old: when reproduction of the dominant species is declining and propagule banks are decreasing; if left undisturbed, vegetation may become senescent and is then unlikely to be reconstituted after a fire.
There is more information about vegetation GSS on our Healthy environment web page.
Joint Fuel Management Program (JFMP)
The JFMP is the statewide program of fuel management works on public and private land. The JFMP includes operations managed by FFMVic and the Country Fire Authority for the upcoming three years. It incorporates and supersedes fire operations plans.
Our Joint Fuel Management Program web page has maps showing all planned fuel management activities for the upcoming three year period. The JFMP does not include burn-offs managed by private landholders or industry.
Mechanical and other non-burn fuel treatment
Mechanical and other non-burn fuel treatments are used to manage fuel through activities other than by planned burning. Examples include mowing, slashing, mulching, using herbicides, rolling and grazing.
Mechanical fuel treatments are used to maintain our network of fuel breaks or to treat small, discrete or complex areas which may be difficult to safely burn (such as in steep gullies), or to complement planned burning where the geography (community, vegetation, terrain) is complex and planned burning opportunities are very limited. Mechanical fuel treatments are more expensive than planned burning, and the area able to be practically/physically treated each year is usually much less than planned burning.
Native vegetation improvement
Native vegetation improvements are activities undertaken to compensate for impacts to biodiversity resulting from FFM Vic’s bushfire preparedness actions. These improvements are done in areas of high biodiversity value throughout the state and include projects such as invasive plant species removal. Scientists and local land managers provided input into selecting which projects were funded. These projects contribute to implementing Protecting Victoria's Environment - Biodiversity 2037, Victoria’s plan to stop the decline of our native plants and animals and improve our natural environment.
Planned burning is the lighting and managing of planned fires at times of lower bushfire risk for various reasons (such as to reduce leaf litter, twigs, bark and undergrowth). Planned burns may be ignited all year round including over summer, but most are in autumn and spring.
We classify planned burns into:
- fuel reduction burns, to reduce the amount of fuel available to a bushfire, which can reduce its intensity and rate of spread and so improve opportunities for firefighters to suppress it
- cultural burns, undertaken by Traditional Owners for cultural purposes
- ecological burns, to achieve ecological objectives (such as to maintain and improve ecological resilience and help regenerate forests)
- other burns, which are ad hoc burns not included in the JFMP, but which still undergo a planning and approval process. For example:
- regeneration burns, to regenerate particular species or vegetation types (such as after timber harvesting)
- windrow/heap burns at point locations, which are to burn debris piles, usually from other land management operations (such as clearing woody weed species).
You can search Planned burning in Victoria web by postcode, locality, park or address to see the planned burns we intend to deliver over the next 10 days, weather permitting.
Planned burn breach
A planned burn is considered to have breached control lines if it spreads beyond the area designated in the burn plan, cannot be readily controlled with onsite or planned resources and compromises the burn objectives.
A planned burn that has breached control lines is classified as a breach or a bushfire, depending on its extent and its effect on the community or the environment.
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.
A bushfire is declared when the breach of control lines threatens or is likely to threaten public safety or private assets and is likely to have a greater impact on the environment. We will conduct an investigation if a bushfire occurs.
The Inspector-General for Emergency Management is notified of all breaches of control lines and may conduct an independent investigation of a resulting bushfire.
Safer Together is Victoria’s approach to reducing bushfire risk, focusing on how effective fuel management activities are, not just on the amount of activity we do. Safer Together is part of the government’s response to the review of performance targets for bushfire fuel management on public land. There is more information on our Safer Together website.
Tolerable fire interval
For any given plant community, the minimum and maximum tolerable fire interval (TFI) between successive burns are determined by the time required for key fire response species to mature and set seed, as well as their time to extinction without fire disturbance. TFI thresholds provide minimum and maximum time intervals of fire frequency to ensure ecosystem resilience.
We report TFI status as the proportion of vegetation on public land that is below minimum TFI, within TFI, above TFI or with no fire history.
The proportion of vegetation on public land below minimum TFI is the percentage of land currently under the minimum time threshold recommended between successive burns for the vegetation on that land. For example, if the recommended minimum TFI is 15 years for a given vegetation type and it was last burnt 10 years ago, the land is below the minimum TFI and will continue to be for another five years.
The proportion of public land above maximum TFI is the percentage of land currently unburnt for a longer period than recommended. For example, if the vegetation on that land was burnt 35 years ago and its maximum TFI is 30 years, the land has been above the maximum TFI for five years.
The proportion of public land within TFI is the percentage of that land on which the vegetation is currently recorded as being within the recommended minimum and maximum TFIs.
The proportion of public land with no fire history is the percentage of land for which we have no record of fire, or if the land’s vegetation does not have a recommended TFI.
The larger the areas in a landscape below minimum TFI and above maximum TFI, the less resilient ecosystems are likely to be. Burning vegetation regularly while below minimum TFI increases the risk of fundamental changes in its structure and functioning. However, we sometimes burn vegetation in particular areas that is below minimum TFI to manage bushfire risk to life and property and to reduce potential damage to important ecosystems by major bushfires.
We recognise that TFI is a coarse measure of ecosystem resilience that doesn’t recognise finer-scale vegetation responses to fire or the differing severity of planned burning and bushfires, but it can help us with regional-scale decision-making. Our regional bushfire management strategies aim to minimise areas burnt while below minimum TFI, where feasible, without failing to deliver on other regional objectives. There will also be instances (such as large fire footprints) where fuels become flammable before ecological maturity is reached where fire will need to be applied below minimum TFI to prevent larger areas being burnt by more-intense bushfires.
There is more information about TFI on our Healthy environment web page.
Page last updated: 01/12/20