For the first time, FFMVic has been able to model the relative contributions of planned burning and bushfires to reductions in bushfire risk.

This modelling highlights how effective well-planned and delivered fuel management can be in reducing bushfire risk, especially when compared to the scale of bushfire required to achieve a similar reduction.

The results vary depending on the range of years selected. However, regardless of the years chosen, the analysis clearly shows that the majority of risk reduction has been achieved through planned burning, even when considering the influence of major bushfires (such as the 2009 Black Saturday fires and 2019–20 fires).

On average, from July 2009 (after the February 2009 Black Saturday fires, when statewide bushfire risk was at a historically low point) to June 2020, planned burning accounted for two-thirds (66%) of the total risk reduction, compared to one-third (34%) for bushfires. This is despite bushfires burning an additional 900,000 ha compared to planned burning: that is, 2.5 million ha was burnt by bushfires, compared to 1.6 million ha by planned burning. This is because we use the best-available science and data to target areas for planned burning (such as close to high-value assets) to maximise risk reduction, whereas bushfire burns locations randomly.

Even for the period 2008-17, a period which includes the Black Saturday fires, planned burning still accounts for over half (63%) of the risk reduction, compared to bushfires (37%). Importantly, during this period bushfires burnt over 1.2 million ha more than planned burning: 2.9 million ha burnt by bushfire, compared to 1.7 million ha by planned burning.

Unfortunately, an unwanted consequence of bushfires is that they often realise the risk we are trying to mitigate: that is, they result in losses of life and property and major environmental damage.

Our analysis has been independently examined by the University of Melbourne, which considers the analysis’ methodology to be valid. Its examination observed that while there will never be a perfect method for measuring risk, the methods used for the analysis can be justified, based on current research results.

The figure below shows the rolling ten-year average bushfire risk reduction attributable to planned burning and bushfires across Victoria since 2007. Each bar represents the average bushfire risk reduction attributable to planned burning compared to bushfires over ten-year periods.

Rolling ten-year average bushfire risk reduction attributable to planned burning and bushfires, Victoria, 2007–2020 (shown as the last year of the ten year period)

Page last updated: 18/12/20