Performance summary

Fuel management

Forest Fire Management Victoria performance summary

Forest Fire Management Victoria's (FFMVic) fuel management target is to maintain fuel-driven bushfire risk at or below 70% of Victoria’s potential maximum level through fuel management in State forests, national parks, and other protected public lands.

Statewide fuel-driven bushfire risk on 30 June 2022 was 62%, which achieves the target (Table 1). This continues the downward trajectory from 63% in 2020–21 and 64% in 2019–20.

The fuel-driven bushfire risk level in 5 out of 6 regions on 30 June 2022 was below the respective long-term regional planning targets. However, the fuel-driven bushfire risk for the Grampians region was 75% which is 5 percentage points above the long-term regional planning target of 70%.

Delivery of planned burns to reduce fuel-driven bushfire risk in the Grampians region in 2021–22 was impacted by the significant storm event that impacted the Wombat State Forest in June 2021.

This was due to the need to prioritise emergency works to reopen the road network and undertake considerable additional preparation works for burns in the Midlands District prior to ignition.

FFMVic’s bushfire risk reduction program will need to focus on reducing fuel-driven bushfire risk in the Grampians region back to target levels, subject to other statewide priorities and suitable weather conditions.

Table 1. Budget Paper 3 Service Delivery Results, 2021-22

Risk analysis

Every year, FFMVic undertakes a detailed risk analysis to determine preparedness levels for bushfire suppression which determines the number and location of firefighters, aircraft and plant and equipment positioned in each district across the State.

In undertaking this analysis, FFMVic takes into consideration the fuel-driven bushfire risk levels, the season outlook, and local conditions. The level of fuel-driven bushfire risk in the Grampians region will inform this analysis.

Communities always have an important role to play in managing bushfire risk.

Communities in the Grampians region and other parts of the State can reduce their bushfire risk by preparing and practising their fire plans, abiding by relevant laws and regulations to prevent bushfires from starting, listening out for community warnings, and evacuating as advised.

The FFMVic fuel management program delivered 77,927 hectares of fuel reduction, including:

  • 264 planned burns completed over 62,260 hectares, with significant burns to reduce fuel-driven bushfire risk in places like Narbethong, Cabbage Tree, Moggs Creek and the Wombat Forest
  • mechanical fuel treatments completed over 15,667 hectares
  • 741 kilometres of strategic fuel breaks built or upgraded across the state, and
  • 6,696 kilometres of public land roads were cleared of storm debris.

Strategic fuel breaks

Strengthening and expanding Victoria’s network of strategic fuel breaks is a key strategy for making it easier, faster, and safer for firefighters to suppress bushfires and complements the planned burning and mechanical treatment programs. In 2021–22, FFMVic continued to deliver on the Victorian Government’s commitment to build and upgrade 1,447 kilometres of strategic fuel breaks and is due to complete this work in 2023.

FFMVic built or upgraded 741 kilometres of strategic fuel breaks in 2021–22, short of its target of 963 kilometres. Performance is below target due to some works having been brought forward and undertaken at the end of 2020–21, seasonal factors that delayed some works commencing in 2021–22, and COVID-19 impacts on contractor availability.

Victoria experienced significant storm and flood events in 2021. In some areas, the volume of fallen trees and debris increased fuel-driven bushfire risk, and hazardous trees created safety risks.

The clearing of storm debris from 6,696 kilometres of public land roads ensures that fire crews can safely access the forest to rapidly suppress bushfires and undertake planned burning and other works to reduce risk.

Joint Fuel Management Plans were completed in October 2021, one month after the target deadline of September 2021, due to additional time required to finalise fire history spatial data.

Country Fire Authority performance summary

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) fuel management program delivered 171 planned burns and 47 non-burn fuel treatments totalling 3,611 hectares, across the five CFA regions. In the west and southwest of the state, this included 494 kilometres of burning along road and rail corridors to provide safer egress. Many of these were supported by the CFA’s Planned Burn Task Force with members from across the state.

Ecosystem resilience

To understand the effects of both bushfires and planned burning on the environment, FFMVic measures and monitors the timing and number of fires in different types of vegetation.

Tolerable fire intervals across the state

The time taken for vegetation types to reach reproductive maturity following the fire is referred to as the Tolerable Fire Interval (TFI).

There have been some areas of improvement in the TFI status of vegetation on public land across Victoria since the 2020-21 report. There were 71,750 fewer hectares of vegetation below minimum TFI, which is now at 55% of Victoria’s public land estate, while the area within TFI increased to 23%.

Growth stage structure across the state

FFMVic measures and tracks the distribution of the age classes of different types of vegetation - referred to as the Growth Stage Structure (GSS) - across the landscape, to ensure an optimal mix of plant developmental stages is maintained.

The proportion of vegetation on public land in the mature and adolescent growth stages increased while the proportion in the juvenile stage decreased. The area of vegetation in the oldest growth stage remained the same.

Traditional Owner cultural burns

In 2021–22, Traditional Owners led the delivery of 14 cultural burns.

5 Traditional Owner groups led these burns across three regions (Loddon Mallee, Grampians, and Barwon South West) with planning, delivery, and post-fire management support from FFMVic and the CFA.

Through the support of a Cultural Fire Grants Program for Traditional Owners, it is projected that the number of cultural burns delivered throughout the state will increase in the coming years.