Planned Burn Breach Assurance

Transfer of assurance function to the Office of Bushfire Risk Management

In July 2022, responsibility for providing assurance over breaches of FFMVic planned burn control lines was transferred to the Office of Bushfire Risk Management (OBRM) from the Inspector General for Emergency Management.

This is the second year that reporting of breaches of FFMVic planned burn control lines, investigations and assurance activities, and progress in implementing any recommendations from previous breaches have been included in this report.

In performing this role, OBRM ensures its assurance activities uphold the principles of the IGEM Assurance Framework for Emergency Management. The framework governs each of the core assurance elements of continuous improvement, collaboration and coordination, reducing burden, and adding value.

2022-23 breaches of planned burn control lines

Fire is a dynamic process and at times a planned burn will escape (or breach) its control lines. FFMVic has a well-defined process for classifying these breaches as either minor breakaways/spotovers, breaches or bushfires depending on their severity.

Planned burns that are declared as either ‘bushfires’ or ‘breaches’ require further investigation. OBRM is responsible for overseeing the prompt and thorough investigation of planned burn breaches and burns declared as bushfires.

For the period 1 July 2022 to 30 June 2023, FFMVic led and supported the conduct of 234 planned burns treating a total of 75,868 hectares.

In this period FFMVic declared 3 planned burns in south-western Victoria as bushfires. While these burns were declared as bushfires all of them were contained within their control lines.

No other planned burns were declared as breaches or bushfires during this reporting period.

Despite not having breached their control lines the 3 planned burns were declared as ‘bushfires’ as they met one of the required triggers under the relevant procedures. Before this event, a planned burn that had not breached its control line had never been declared a bushfire under this procedure.

FFMVic investigated these burns with OBRM participating in an advisory capacity. FFMVic’s final report made 31 findings and proposed 13 treatment options to reduce the risk of similar incidents in the future.

The FFMVic Chief Fire Officer accepted the treatment options in the investigation report and will keep OBRM briefed on progress towards their implementation.

Implementation monitoring of recommendations

As part of its assurance role OBRM – like IGEM – monitors trends and systemic risks identified in investigations of breaches of planned burn control lines and may make recommendations for improvement.

This section provides an update on the implementation of these recommendations.

In assessing the implementation progress of each recommendation, OBRM uses the descriptions outlined in the table below to define their status.

CompleteRecommendation has been implemented.
In ProgressRecommendation is in progress and will continue to be monitored by OBRM.
ClosedRecommendation has not been implemented.

Implementation of the following recommendation was reported as ongoing (in progress) in IGEM’s Assurance of Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning breaches of planned burn control lines 2020–21 (2020–21 Assurance Report).

Recommendation 3 – IGEM 2016-17 Summary Report

The Inspector-General for Emergency Management recommends that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) in consultation with the regions and relevant personnel, revise its procedure for planned burn contingency planning. This review should aim to provide a clear, and consistent, set of minimum standards (and examples) to guide DELWP’s staff in how to develop adequate contingency plans for planned burning activities.

This recommendation was made by IGEM in its 2016–17 Summary Report. IGEM found inconsistencies in the contingency planning among planned burns that breached their control line and noted that DELWP (now DEECA) did not provide planning staff with adequate guidance and instruction on the minimum requirements for a sufficiently rigorous contingency plan to manage a breach of a planned burn control line.

As part of IGEM's 2018–19 Assurance Report, DELWP advised IGEM that actions to address this recommendation would be addressed through the Safer Together Project 2.6 – Common Burn Risk Assessment Tool, to be implemented in 2019–20.

DELWP advised that contingency planning would be built into its new embedded risk assessment (ERA), and enhancements to eMap mapping products.

The contingencies would be recorded against desired and undesired outcomes, including the breach of a control line.

DELWP has subsequently updated and developed numerous pieces of doctrine related to contingency planning. Updates to doctrine and systems improvements were in place ahead of the 2022 autumn planned burn season and were successfully utilised during the delivery of FFMVic’s planned burn program.

IGEM provided DELWP with notification in December 2022 stating that it considered Recommendation 3 – IGEM 2016-17 Summary Report to be implemented.

Recommendation 3- IGEM 2016-17 Summary Report

Lead AgencyDEECA

Implementation monitoring of treatment options

In 2020–21, FFMVic reported one planned burn that breached control lines. The breach in north-western Victoria resulted in 767 hectares of public land being unintentionally burned and required significant additional resourcing to bring it under control.

FFMVic investigated the breach with IGEM participating in an advisory capacity. FFMVic’s final investigation report made 10 findings and recommended 7 treatment options to reduce the risk of future occurrences.

OBRM has been briefed by FFMVic on actions taken to address the 7 treatment options and has assessed their implementation.

The 7 treatment options have been implemented through a range of changes to processes and systems that aim to reduce the risks of multi-stage unbounded burns in the Mallee region.

Changes include:

  • updated systems, processes, and procedures allowing tailored prescriptions for multi-stage burns
  • updated procedures for burn planning improving contingency area identification for these burns using fire behaviour modelling
  • updated systems and processes allowing multiple operations to be created for one fuel treatment to clarify requirements at each stage of delivery for complex burns
  • updated and improved procedure for coverage assessment between operations in multi-stage burns ensuring control lines and contingency plans are appropriately adjusted.

OBRM considers all 7 treatment options to be implemented.

Treatment Options - IGEM 2020-21 Summary Report

Lead AgencyDEECA