Bushfire risk

Port Phillip’s long-term bushfire risk regional planning target is 85 per cent.

The figure below shows the Port Phillip region’s bushfire risk profile for 1980–2021 and projected changes in bushfire risk until 2024. It shows bushfire risk in the Port Phillip region:

  • was 85 per cent in 2020–21, down 2 percentage points from a projected level of 87 per cent (if there were no major bushfires or fuel management)
  • was the same as at the end of 2019–20
  • is projected to fall to 78 per cent by 2024 if we implement the entire Joint Fuel Management Program and there are no major bushfires, noting it would continue to increase to 87 per cent without any fuel management activity or major bushfires. Implementing the entire program would keep bushfire risk levels below the long-term Port Phillip region planning target of 85 per cent.

Since 2009, bushfire risk has gradually increased in Port Philip due to the re-accumulation of fuels in wet, mountainous, forested areas, which are typically too damp for planned burning. Additionally, some high-risk settlements in the region adjoin dense forest and therefore cannot be safely treated with planned burning. These factors highlight the importance of mechanical and other non-burn fuel treatments - including mowing, slashing, mulching, and using herbicides - and enhanced preparedness and community education to achieve risk reduction targets.

Priority areas for planned burning include north of the Dandenong Ranges, the forests to Melbourne’s east, and areas in and around Melbourne’s water catchments. Other key activities include the continued construction and maintenance of strategic fuel break networks through Melbourne’s water catchments and mechanical fuel treatment in the forest interface to the east of Melbourne.

Bushfire risk profile, Port Phillip Region, 1980–2024

Ecosystem resilience

The figure below shows the tolerable fire interval (TFI) status of vegetation on public land in the Port Phillip region since 1980. It shows that in 2020–21:

  • about 48 per cent of the vegetation was below minimum TFI, 1 percentage point less than in 2019–20
  • the proportion of vegetation within TFI remained the same at 38 per cent
  • the proportion of vegetation above maximum TFI remained the same, at 1 per cent.

In 2020–21, less than 1 per cent of the vegetation burnt by bushfire or planned burning was below minimum TFI, the result of careful planning to minimise the potential impacts of planned burns on vegetation below minimum TFI.

TFI status of vegetation on public land, Port Phillip region, 1980–2021

The figure below shows the growth stage structure (GSS) status of vegetation on public land in the Port Phillip region since 1980. It shows that in 2020–21:

  • about 13 per cent of the vegetation was in the juvenile growth stage, 6 percentage points less than 2019–20
  • about 23 per cent of the vegetation was in the adolescent growth stage, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2019-20
  • the proportion of vegetation in the mature growth stage remained the same at 38 per cent
  • there was no significant change in the proportions in the old growth stage (which remained low, at 2 per cent) and with no fire history (which remained at 12 per cent).

Threatened species, such as Leadbeater’s Possum and Smoky Mouse, rely on vegetation in the mature and old growth stages for habitat, particularly for features such as hollow-bearing trees and coarse woody debris. It will take a long time for the landscape to recover to these growth stages, as some vegetation communities can take up to 50 years or more to reach maturity.

The area of vegetation with no recorded fire history on public land has gradually declined over the last decade. The TFI status and GSS cannot be determined in areas with no fire history.

GSS status of vegetation on public land, Port Phillip region, 1980–2021

Fuel management delivery

Generally favourable weather conditions in Port Phillip Region during 2020-21 enabled both the Yarra and Metropolitan fire districts good opportunities to deliver their planned burning programs. Table 1 summarises the region’s fuel management activities in 2020–21.

Table 1: Fuel management activities, Port Phillip region, 2020–21

Fuel reduction

No. of treatments


Area treated by planned burning:

  • ecological burns: 627 hectares (20 burns)
  • fuel reduction burns: 2,225 hectares (20 burns)
  • other burns: 62 hectares (6 burns)


Area treated by non-burn fuel treatments:

  • mechanical mulching: 58 hectares (7 treatments)
  • mechanical slashing or mowing: 1,270 hectares (103 treatments)
  • other methods: 39 hectares (6 treatments)


Total area treated to reduce bushfire risk



During 2020-21 we undertook 40 ecological and fuel reduction burns in the Port Phillip region, with a total of 2,878 hectares treated. There was an additional 61.8 hectares of timber harvesting area regenerated, and windrow/heaps treated, bringing the total treated to 2,941 hectares. We also completed about 1,367 hectares of mechanical fuel treatment. Yarra fire district was able to complete all its spring planned burns. Metro fire district delivered its biggest program in years, resulting in double the number of hectares treated this year compared to the five-year rolling average. Across the region, we delivered 14 of 25 priority burns. We could not complete the remaining 11 including six regeneration burns as conditions were unsuitable. We invested over 3,400 work-days undertaking planned burning delivery in 2020-21.

Port Philip region staff continued to work through the various stakeholder engagement challenges associated with ongoing COVID restrictions, which limited both face-to-face and onsite meetings.

Staff also continued to work closely with other land management agencies including Parks Victoria and the Country Fire Authority to help develop the Joint Fuel Management Program and deliver the fuel management program.

An interesting and useful collaboration occurred between Port Philip and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) this year. FRV, along with their remotely piloted aircraft system, attended a FFMVic grasslands burn in early 2021. The FRV system captured thermal and video footage for FFMVic and Parks Victoria future use and was an opportunity for pilots to build skills with the drones, which had only recently become operational.

Page last updated: 23/12/21