Statewide overview

Bushfire risk management is everyone’s responsibility.

The Bushfire management sector works together with Traditional Owners, industry, communities and private landowners to reduce risk across public and private land.

Whether through the reduction of bushfire fuels on public land, private property or roadsides, construction of strategic fuel breaks, delivery of community education programs, conducting patrols for unattended campfires, or suppressing bushfires – everyone has a role to play.

Individuals, households, and communities play an important part in managing their bushfire risk. By preparing and practicing a fire-ready plan, reducing bushfire fuels on their property, participating in bushfire management planning processes, and listening out for community warnings – every Victorian can take active steps to further reduce the risk of bushfires to themselves, their families, and their communities.

This year’s report includes information on bushfire risk reduction activities and outcomes delivered by FFMVic and the CFA.

Over time, the report will continue to expand to include bushfire risk management activities and outcomes delivered by a broader range of agencies.

Overview of the 2022-23 bushfire season and the suppression effectiveness

Bushfires are a natural part of the Victorian environment and although fire agencies prepare for and respond rapidly to suppress bushfires with aggressive first attack, it is often not possible to control every bushfire at a small size.

The area burnt during bushfires can contribute to a temporary reduction in fuel-driven bushfire risk for the specific areas affected. This can therefore contribute to a reduction in the state and respective regional and district risk profiles, which consider the areas burnt by bushfires.

The 2022–23 fire season had a lower-than-average number of fires, due to the wetter-than-usual conditions associated with a La Niña climate pattern.

During the 2022–23 bushfire season, FFMVic and CFA crews’ response involved (Table 1):

  • FFMVic attended 838 fires impacting 4,280 hectares,
  • CFA attended 1,949 fires impacting 6,605 hectares.

FFMVic attended 444 unattended campfires. This was just over half (53%) of all fires attended by FFMVic.

FFMVic contains 98% of fires at first attack and 92% of fires within 5 hectares exceeding bushfire suppression performance targets.

CFA also contained 92% of fires it responded to within 5 hectares.

Table 1: FFMVic and CFA response information

Response categoryFFMVicCFA
Number of fires attended8381,949
Hectares impacted by fire4,2806,605
Proportion of fires contained at first attack98%n/a
Proportion of fires contained less than 5 hectares92%92%
Number of unattended campfires of total fires attended by FFMVic444n/a

Mitigation and prevention key highlights

The bushfire sector mitigated bushfire risk through a wide range of prevention and preparedness activities including ignition controls, community engagement, planned burning, non-burn fuel treatment, strategic fuel break construction, and maintenance of the strategic fire access network.

Fire danger periods and total fire ban days

A Fire Danger Period is when the CFA restricts the use of fire during hotter times of the year. The rules help prevent fires from starting by limiting the types of fires that can be lit and restricting or imposing conditions on some high-risk activities. The CFA declares the Fire Danger Period for each municipality (shire or council) at different times in the lead-up to the fire season – depending on the amount of rain, grassland curing rate and other local conditions. The Fire Danger Period may be declared as early as September in some municipalities, and typically remains in place until the fire danger lessens, which could be as late as May. Within the Fire Danger Period, authorised officers issue permits for igniting fires for specific purposes. The permits stipulate the appropriate conditions under which fire can be ignited.

A Total Fire Ban is a period when all fires are banned, and people working outside (such as farmers harvesting) are asked to reconsider their activities. These are called for one or more days when the fire risk is Extreme and the CFA Chief Officer considers there to be a considerable risk that if fires start they would be difficult to control or would have a significant impact on communities. In the 2022–23 reporting period, 4 Total Fire Ban (TFB) days were declared. No TFB days were revoked (Table 2). The details on the restrictions for both the Fire Danger Period and a Total Fire Ban are listed on the CFA’s website.

Table 2: Total Fire Bans declared in 2022–23 and 2021–22. Data aligns with the financial year.

Declared district (s) CFADeclared date and time 2021-22Declared date and time 2022-23
Mallee, Wimmera, South West, Northern Country, North Central and Central (includes Melbourne and Geelong) 18/03/2023
Wimmera and South West 24/02/2023
North Central and Central (includes Melbourne and Geelong) 17/02/2023
Mallee18/11/2021; 02/12/202102/01/2023
Mallee and Wimmera13/12/2021; 19/12/2021
Total 44

Campfire safety

Approximately 10% of bushfires are caused by campfire negligence. FFMVic attended 444 unattended campfires in 2022–23. This is just over half (53%) of all fires attended by FFMVic.

Compliance activities carried out by the Office of the Conservation Regulator and FFMVic are a key component in reducing the risks of bushfire ignition. The risks caused by campfires are limited by:

  • providing clear information about campfire regulations and campfire safety,
  • raising awareness of campfire regulations at customer centres, during patrols and through media campaigns,
  • analysing intelligence from reports of unsafe behaviours and high-risk times and locations,
  • conducting surveillance and patrols in high-risk locations, during fire hazard days, and targeting high-risk behaviours,
  • initiating (and publicising) enforcement actions.

Authorised Officers reported 542 fire-related offences in the public land estate of fire protected area during the 2022–23 reporting period.

The Victoria Police enforce the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 and Summary Offences Act 1966 provisions regarding fire prevention.

Community education, awareness and engagement

Community-based bushfire management is a community-led approach that supports communities and agencies to connect and make better-informed decisions. It includes working with communities to identify local priorities, develop mutual goals and solutions, build relationships and use locally tailored processes before, during and after bushfires. The Safer Together Community-Based Bushfire Management (CBBM) program has 25 CBBM communities with 80% classed as high functioning due to the recent onboarding of new communities and recruitment required to fill resource vacancies.

FFMVic held 13 stakeholder and community forums on bushfire management and planned burning during 2022–23. An additional engagement forum was delivered to better partner with impacted stakeholders to reduce the potential for smoke taint resulting from planned burning activity.

Fuel management

In 2022-23, CFA completed 123 planned burns across 3,084 hectares (including 570 kilometres of burning across road and rail corridors) and 60 non-burn fuel treatments across an additional 323 hectares (note the planned burning figures include cultural burns delivered by Traditional Owners supported by the CFA).

FFMVic constructed 235km of strategic fuel breaks, and improved 2,155km of strategic fire access roads.

FFMVic delivered 214 planned burns across 75,500 hectares and 1,602 non-burn fuel treatments across an additional 16,757 hectares.

Statewide fuel-driven bushfire risk was 65%, which achieves the target of maintaining risk at or below 70% of maximum levels.

While 3 FFMVic Regions and 11 Districts maintained fuel-driven bushfire risk within long-term planning target levels, and 3 Regions (Grampians, Hume and Port Phillip) and 5 Districts ( Midlands, Metro, Yarra, Latrobe and Ovens) exceeded their targets.

For further information on the statewide, regional and district fuel-driven bushfire risk levels, reasons why some regions and districts are above long-term planning targets and specific actions being taken by FFMVic to respond to elevated fuel-driven bushfire risk in these areas is provided in Section 5 and Section 6.

Relative contribution to risk reduction by planned burning and bushfires

Modelling can be used to determine the relative contribution of planned burning and bushfires to risk reduction realised through the reduction of bushfire fuels. Presenting the contribution to risk reduction from planned burns and previous bushfires as a 10-year rolling average is a more meaningful and accurate way to view this data compared to doing it as a year-to-year contribution. The reasons for this include:

  • the persistence of a year-to-year variability in risk reduction contribution. For example, in years with very large bushfires, such as the 2019-20 fire season, the majority of risk reduction would be attributable to bushfires, whilst in years with minimal bushfire activity, almost 100% risk reduction is attributable to planned burning, and
  • although there is considerable variation from year to year, planned burning accounts for more risk reduction than bushfires. This is despite bushfires impacting a substantially greater area than planned burns over the last 10-year period.

From July 2014 to June 2023, planned burns accounted for approximately 21% of the total burnt area across the State, with bushfires contributing to the remaining 79%. However, planned burning accounted for 59% of the total risk reduction across Victoria, compared to 41% risk reduction from bushfires.

This is a result of using the best available science and data to identify and target areas for planned burning in strategic locations (such as close to high-value assets) to reduce the risk to life and property, whereas bushfires are indiscriminate and may occur anywhere in the landscape.

For more information on statewide, regional and district fuel-driven bushfire risk levels, refer to Section 5 and Section 6.

Ecosystem resilience – key highlights

Fire is a natural and vital process for many of Victoria’s ecosystems. Many plants rely on fire to reproduce. In the context of bushfire management planning, ecosystem resilience is an ecosystem’s capacity to absorb natural and management-imposed disturbance but still retain its basic structure – in terms of species abundance and composition – function and identity over space and time. It is desirable to minimise the total area burnt while vegetation is below reproductive maturity, known as the minimum tolerable fire interval because it might affect the vegetation’s ability to successfully regenerate after bushfires in the immediate future. Burning areas below minimum tolerable fire interval is sometimes unavoidable, to reduce fuel-driven bushfire risk to human life, property or other important values.

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.

These are measured relative to:

  • the time taken for vegetation types to reach reproductive maturity following fire – referred to as the tolerable fire interval (TFI), and
  • the age classes of different types of vegetation – referred to as the growth stage structure (GSS).

There have been some areas of improvement in the TFI status of vegetation on public land across Victoria since the 2021–22 report. Vegetation below minimum TFI, is now at 50% of Victoria’s public land estate, while the area within TFI increased to 28%.

The proportion of vegetation on public land in the mature (34%) and adolescent (27%) growth stages increased while the proportion in the juvenile stage (15%) decreased. The area of vegetation in the oldest growth stage (4%) remained the same.

FFMVic also partners with universities and other academic institutions to conduct research that improves how ecosystem resilience is represented and measured.

For more detailed reporting, refer to Section 5 and Section 6.

Support for cultural burning – key highlights

In 202223, 6 Traditional Owner groups led the delivery of 23 cultural burns on Country.

The CFA supported the delivery of 3 cultural burns by Traditional Owners covering 49 hectares and FFMVic supported Traditional Owners to deliver 20 cultural burns covering 369 hectares.