The management of bushfires is a shared responsibility at all levels of society. In general terms, an acceptable level of protection from bush fires can be achieved through a combination of strategies which:
- Put standards in place (such as AS3959 and Planning for Bushfire Protection) to control the type of development permissible in bush fire prone areas;
- Manage fuels in close proximity to assets by separating the development from the bush fire hazard;
- Implement risk based planning and fuel management strategies (hazard reduction burning, slashed breaks etc)
- Implement community education programs, focusing on property preparedness, including emergency planning (survival plans) and property maintenance and
- Provide appropriate insurance cover for replacement of the full cost of the new house (complying with AS3959 will increase costs of building)
- Provide coordinated fire fighting, including provision of emergency warnings and giving guidance to communities about fire impact areas.
- Any development (new or existing) in natural hazard areas has inherent risks, as does driving cars, crossing the road or flying in planes. Risk can be managed, mitigated or avoided. However, this needs to be tempered with expectations and entitlements associated wih land. Preventing infill development effectively sterilizes land and makes it worthless, which has enormous community and personal cost.
Managing risk is an everyday part of our lives
The peak body for fire agencies in Australia is the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Council (AFAC). In its Bushfires Community Safety Position Paper 2012 AFAC articulates the risk-based approach:
Bushfire loss can be reduced or avoided in some cases, but cannot be entirely prevented. A balance needs to be struck between measures taken to reduce or avoid harm and loss due to bushfire, and the protection of other values. This compromise involves acceptance of the inevitability of some loss of life, property, infrastructure and community asset
Risk management is a part of our everyday lives. For infill development in bushfire prone areas, it is important that people understand their risk and make informed decisions about the actions they take. This should be guided by transparent and consistent government policy and application of development standards.
People choose to live in bushland areas for a variety of reasons. Does the likelihood of fire override other values and considerations? – that is a personal question that needs to be considered in light of a range of motivations and supported by a range of mitigation strategies.
Living in the bush or even in the flame zone is what it is. Reducing the risk, well that is something that we all play a role in.