Reducing bushfire risk

The South Australian Government is committed to reducing the risk of bushfires to primary producers, the community and the environment. The Farming Guidelines (PDF 406.6 KB or DOC 1.8 MB) for the Reduction of Bushfire Risk, has been developed to provide farmers with a clear and consistent approach to the management of farms to reduce the risk of bushfire.

The guidelines promote a planned landscape approach to bushfire protection and fuel reduction works, including stubble height reduction. The Guidelines should not be seen as removing the need for farmers to responsibly control fuel levels on their properties, or to be adequately prepared for, and know what to do in the event of a bushfire.

Farming Guidelines for the Reduction of Bushfire Risk (PDF 406.6 KB or DOC 1.8 MB)

This table provides a brief summary of some of the actions farmers can undertake to manage the risk of bushfire.


Topic

Recommended actions

Is approval
needed?

Reference
page

Fire access tracks and firebreaks

Fire access tracks should be constructed according to guidelines and the level of bushfire risk
Firebreaks should be constructed along fence lines, remnant vegetation or public roads and be 20 metres wide in a landscape approach

No, if part
of a Bushfire Management Plan

Page 5 and
reference 1
page 14

Cutting and bailing hay or straw

Strategic selection of paddocks to be cut as hay or bailed as straw in a landscape approach

No

Page 5

Grain harvesting

Use the Grain Harvesting Guidelines to guide harvest management during periods of high bushfire risk

No

Page 6

Stubble management

Reduce stubble height to about 10cm during harvesting. Further reduction should be considered after harvest eg grazing, rolling, chaining, harrowing or slashing

No

Page 6

Haystacks
 

Refer to the CFS information sheet for actions to reduce the risk of haystack fires

No

Page 6 and reference 3 page 14

Plant and equipment

Consider the risk of fire before grinding, welding, slashing, or mowing

Yes, in the open air, on days of Total Fire Ban

Page 6

Vehicles

Consider the risk of fire before driving vehicles through dry vegetation

No

Page 6

Fuel hazard

Undertake an assessment of the fuel hazard before deciding on actions to reduce fuel loads

No

Page 7 and reference 5 page 14

Prescribed burning

May be used to reduce fuel close to farm buildings, but fuel reduction by mechanical means is preferred

Yes, in some situations

Page 7 and reference 6 page 14

Fire suppression

Use farm fire units according to CFS and SAFF guidelines

No

Page 8 and reference 4 page 14

Bushfire management zones

Use a zoned approach to identify activities to be undertaken for bushfire safety preparedness

No, unless in a conservation land management zone

Page 8 and reference 7 page 14

Farm Forestry

Maintain firebreaks by reducing fuel loading

No

Reference 9 page 14

Native vegetation

Refer to the Native Vegetation Guidelines if fuel reduction activities include clearing native vegetation

Yes, in some situations

Page 10 and reference 8 page 14


Actions to Reduce Bushfire Impacts

Farming Practices

The potentially practicable recommendations from the research regarding farming practices to reduce bushfire risk include:

  • Strategically located firebreaks
  • Cutting and baling paddocks for hay or straw
  • Harvest management to reduce stubble height
  • Post-harvest stubble management

Fire Access Tracks and Firebreaks

Fire access tracks and firebreaks should be established according the level of bushfire risk,
the need for property and natural asset protection and the management of primary production.

A zoned approach should be undertaken to prioritise bushfire management actions and should be undertaken within the scope of the Bushfire Management Committee plan.

Fire access tracks assist fire crews to get to bushfires and also act as fuel breaks. Standards for three types of fire access tracks have been adopted by the SA Government Agencies Fire Liaison Committee (see Reference 1 for further information).

Farmers should discuss the location and appropriate standard for any fire access tracks with the local CFS Brigade.

The results from the bushfire research recommend that firebreaks as cultivated, sprayed or mown areas should be strategically located only along fence lines adjoining areas of remnant vegetation or public roads and should be at least 20 metres in width. 

Firebreaks required for farm forestry plantation areas vary from 7 metres for plantations less than 40 hectares in size to 20m for those covering 40 to 100ha.

To ensure that the use of firebreaks has a maximum mitigatory effect on the risk of bushfire, a strategic landscape approach should be adopted. The identification of strategically located firebreaks should form part of a local community based bushfire management plan. This plan should be developed in consultation with the local Bushfire Management Committee.

Cutting and Baling Hay/Straw

The results from the bushfire research also recommended that strategic harvesting of hay or straw (about 15% of total cereal crop area), used in conjunction with 20 metre roadside firebreaks, in 'Good' seasons has a similar effect in reducing the extent of bushfires as having a 'Poor' or 'Median' growing season.

Strategically located cereal paddocks cut for hay or baled as straw can significantly reduce bushfire risk and improve effectiveness of fire suppression measures. The strategic selection of paddocks for cutting and baling could also be adopted in a landscape approach in combination with the selection of firebreaks, as described in part 4.2 above. It is acknowledged that commercial realities may influence the use of this option for fuel reduction.

In addition, consider the bushfire risk conditions when cutting hay. Consider a fire-resistant cover on the load or a spark shield behind the exhaust. Alternatively, have an exhaust system that is located under the body of the vehicle to ensure the exhaust emissions are away from the hay.

Harvest Management

The reduction of stubble height to about 10cm to 15 cm during harvesting should be considered to reduce the risk of a spread of a bushfire. The use of straw choppers or spreaders on headers will also hasten decomposition of crop residues.

Farmers are also reminded of the existing Grain Harvesting Code of Practice that provides specific and practical guidelines for harvest management during periods of high bushfire risk.

Stubble Management

Post harvest stubble management, such as grazing, rolling, chaining, harrowing or slashing can significantly reduce the risk of a bushfire spreading. In addition it may help with snail management, avoids environmental issues associated with burning stubble and it may make seeding easier.

If stubble heaps are created for later burning, ensure that the size of the heap does not exceed the resources at hand to contain the fire. Farmers are encouraged to consider creating several smaller heaps rather than one large heap.

Haystack Management

Haystack fires have a range of causes and they can spread quickly into the surrounding area and may initiate a bushfire if they are not managed appropriately.

Farmers are encouraged to store hay and silage:

  • In several different dispersed locations on a property rather than in one location to reduce the risk of total loss from fire;
  • Separate from other buildings, roadsides with public access and powerlines;
  • So that it is protected from rain, leaking roofs and runoff;
  • So that vegetation is cleared for 20 metres width around the store; and
  • So that the moisture content of the hay is maintained between 12% and 18% (depending on crop type and baling method).

Vehicles, Plant and Equipment Management

Farmers need to consider the risk of fire before grinding, welding, slashing, mowing, or driving vehicles or plant through dry grass, pastures or crops. Driving vehicles with catalytic converters through dry vegetation is particularly hazardous.

Operators of vehicles, plant or equipment are encouraged to regularly check for straw or grass build up near hot bearings and look behind for fire. If vehicles, plant or equipment is to be left unattended, then the operator should check that they will not start a fire.

The use of cutting, welding, soldering, grinding or charring equipment is not permitted on days of Total Fire Ban in the open air without a special permit obtained from CFS regional offices.

Fuel Hazard

An assessment of fuel hazard is a useful tool for making decisions about fuel reduction works.

Prescribed Burning

The use of prescribed burning is one of a range of practices available to farmers and other land managers for the management of fuel loads. However, for environmental concerns prescribed burning is not the preferred method of fuel management on farms.

Prescribed burning may be used for:

  • reducing fuel loads and by doing so reducing the intensity and rates of spread of bushfires.
  • reducing the impact of bushfire on properties.
  • reducing the impact of large bushfires on biodiversity (landscape protection).
  • enhancing biodiversity by modifying or maintaining vegetation communities for specific plant or animal species.

Burning for Fuel Reduction and Property Protection

Prescribed burning can be used to reduce fuel in areas close to farm buildings, and other infrastructure, which may be damaged by a bushfire.

Ground fuels consisting of bark, leaves, twigs and other plant material (often less than 6mm in diameter) contribute to the spread of fire. Reducing this fuel load, will assist in reducing the rate of spread and intensity of a bushfire and will assist in providing some protection for properties for a period of time post burning.

Prescribed burning can promote increased growth of weeds, exotic grasses and fast growing native plants that will re-establish fuel loads, so careful planning and continued monitoring is critical.

Mechanical reduction of fuel loads is a preferred option, especially where soil erosion may be an issue. The aim would be to leave a minimal cover required to stabilise the soil surface.

Burning to Reduce the Impact of Large Bushfires

Landscape protection burns or prescribed burns are primarily aimed to reduce fuel hazard across a landscape in order to reduce the likelihood of a large area burning in a single large bushfire event. The short term goal of this type of prescribed burning is for fuel reduction. In the long term landscape protection burning should be part of an integrated management plan to reduce the risk of the spread of bushfire across a landscape.

Conducting a Prescribed Burn

Prescribed burns should only be undertaken by competent and experienced personnel. The Government Agency Fire Liaison Committee's Prescribed Burning Code of Practice provides information on how to plan a prescribed burn (See Reference 6 for further information).

The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has more information about conducting a prescribed burn.

Approval for bushfire management plans for burning native vegetation for fuel reduction within Asset Protection and Bushfire Buffer zones is obtained from the Native Vegetation Council (NVC).

Approvals

Some bushfire management works may need an approval. For further information on required approvals contact either:

  • the SA CFS Regional Prevention Officer or the SA CFS Building Fire Safety Unit
    (see contact details in part 9 of the Guidelines)
  • the Native Vegetation Group, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).The application process involves submitting a Bushfire Management Plan for approval (see contact details in part 9 of the Guidelines).

Native Vegetation

There are some situations where clearance of native vegetation for fuel reduction works is permitted. Clearance exceeding legislated standards needs an approval from the Native Vegetation Council (NVC) or delegate. Reference should also be made to A Guide to the Native Vegetation Regulations 2003 to Reduce the Impact of Bushfire (see reference 8).

The intention of the clearance legislation is not to prevent the necessary clearance of native vegetation for fuel reduction works, but to encourage the planned clearance for those fuel reduction works, and to ensure larger clearance actions are subject to environmental review. Detailed information is also available from the NVC website at www.nvc.sa.gov.au or through contacting the Native Vegetation Group of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Contacts

Biosecurity SA - Emergency Management

Telephone: (08) 8207 7917
Web: www.pir.sa.gov.au

South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS)

In an emergency, please call 000.

Headquarters: (08) 8463 4200
Building Fire Safety Unit: 8391 6077
Region 1 - Mount Lofty Ranges: 8391 1866
Region 2 - Mount Lofty Ranges and Yorke Peninsula: 8522 6088
Region 3 - Murraylands and Riverland: 8532 6800
Region 4 - Flinders, Mid North and Pastoral Areas: 8642 2399
Region 5 - South East: 8762 2311
Region 6 - Eyre Peninsula and West Coast: 8682 4266
Web: www.cfs.sa.gov.au

Department for Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)

Adelaide Region (Black Hill CP, Athelstone): 8336 0924
Kangaroo Island Region (Kingscote): 8553 2381
Murraylands Region (Berri): 8595 2111
Outback Region (Pt Augusta): 8648 5300
South East Region (Mt Gambier): 8735 1177
West Region (Port Lincoln): 8688 3111
Northern and Yorke Region (Clare): 8841 3400

Web: www.environment.sa.gov.au

Native Vegetation Group

Department of Environment and Natural Resources, (DENR)
Telephone: (08) 8303 9777
Email: nvc@sa.gov.au
Web: www.nvc.sa.gov.au

Forestry SA

Telephone: (08) 8724 2888
Email: forestrysa@forestrysa.sa.gov.au
Web: www.forestry.sa.gov.au

9. CFS Plantation Design Guidelines ¡V Farm Forestry

Page Last Reviewed: 30 Oct 2014
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