Bushfire has been a natural part of our landscape for thousands of years and remains an ever-present threat for our community. With increasing urban development and a climate that is getting drier and warmer, bushfires are an increasing risk for people in bushfire prone areas.
The bushfire risk associated with a building is related to its design and construction, prevailing weather conditions, amount and type of fuel load (vegetation) and the separation of building to vegetation.
Bushfire is one of many natural hazards. It is also one of a multitude of considerations that land managers must consider in discharging their responsibilities and managing their land. If you live in a bushfire prone area (within 100 metres of areas that could burn including crops and grassland areas), you are exposed to the risk of bushfires. As such, you should take measures to reduce the likelihood of ignition and spread of fire on or from your property.
But this is not as easy as it seems and it gets harder for larger land managers for a range of reasons. Consider NSW. There is a huge urban bushland interface with:
- 1.2 million bushfire prone properties;
- 300,000km of urban bushland interface;
- 20 million hectares of bushfire prone land.
Figure 1. Australian Bushfire Season
When you look at the entire country, the mind starts to boggle. Australia is one of the most fire prone places on the planet, with the bushfire seasons shown in Figure 1. It also has potential for high consequence fires in our most populated areas as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2. Highest Bushfire Risks in Australia
Large scale fires can be expected in any of these areas.
So the most obvious and largest constraint to bushfire management is the sheer size of the problem.
Getting the balance right
There is a need to recognise land management objectives and to provide for the protection of lives and to minimise the impacts on property. Other values such as amenity, protection of the environment and natural systems are also an important part of the equation.