Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Warin » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 7:49 pm

potato wrote:Show me the evidence, the actual science that hazard reduction works.


A burn reduces the fuel load.

That reduction in burn energy left behind should be less than the maximum value that a fire crew can fight.

That is what is intended .. to reduce the fuel load to such a level that a fire can be effectively fought .. while maintaining a reasonable safety for fire fighters.
When away from the areas that can be accessed by a fire crew a low level reduction should stop a low level fire from crowning.

A low level hazard reduction can be done by 'twittering' - removal of fuel load by hand/rake etc. If you have ever 'twittered' you'd know why fire is used - far faster, cheaper and more effective.

Science/research ? http://www.bushfirecrc.com/ and https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby LachlanB » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 10:44 pm

Warin wrote:
potato wrote:Yep but even a well designed fire break will do nothing under the right conditions. Paddocks hundreds of metres wide and grazed bare to the ground burnt across parts of NSW and the ACT in 2003. Fire is much more complex than fuel alone.

Disagree.
A MANNED fire brake (of sufficient width to keep the workers safe, and with enough people) will protect adjacent buildings. The buildings have to be able to withstand ember attack.


It will still do nothing to help under severe conditions. Using Potato's example of the 2003 Canberra fires, the fire was easily able to cross firebreaks, as the organic material in the soil was combusting, and the superheated gasses produced by the fire set anything they touched on fire. The conditions were so bad that many potential containment lines were impossible to safely man.

Warin wrote:A burn reduces the fuel load.

This isn't particularly accurate. Available literature indicates that a burn only temporarily reduces the fuel load, after which it dramatically increases. So to keep the fuel load low, you have to burn constantly, which causes serious health and environmental problems. Or, you could wait for a forest to mature, at which point fire risk is structurally lower, and fuel loads decrease.

Moondog55 wrote:Totally disagree
Hazard reduction is always worth it, and controlled fires small and often are part of it.
We don't burn often enough and we tend to burn in the wrong places at the moment


Could you please explain how exactly Hazard reduction burns can be worth it, as they increase fire risk, cause massive ecological damage, and a huge health burden? All for a benefit that could be obtained through other, less destructive methods- like education and changed building practises.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby taipan821 » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 11:08 pm

LachlanB wrote:
Could you please explain how exactly Hazard reduction burns can be worth it, as they increase fire risk, cause massive ecological damage, and a huge health burden? All for a benefit that could be obtained through other, less destructive methods- like education and changed building practises.


So how to you prevent the old buildings and the idiots who refuse change?
I'm not high up in rural fire fighting, I just light the burns. from my perspective, the hazard reduction burns are great. They're cheap, relatively easy to do and make my life slightly easier and safer. it helps to reduce the chance I'll get caught in a burn over, it helps because the low fuel areas become safe refuges for fire fighters.

I challenge people here to come up with a alternative solution that is cheap (price for fuel and a drip torch) and creates a safety margin for the mostly volunteers who have to fight the fires. If you won't go out to fight the fire, then how can you complain about what the fire fighters do? hazard reduction burns are primarily to make the fire fighter safer and make any fire slightly easier to control.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby LachlanB » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 11:28 pm

taipan821 wrote:
LachlanB wrote:
Could you please explain how exactly Hazard reduction burns can be worth it, as they increase fire risk, cause massive ecological damage, and a huge health burden? All for a benefit that could be obtained through other, less destructive methods- like education and changed building practises.


So how to you prevent the old buildings and the idiots who refuse change?


The same way as with any other change- slowly, and with lots of patience. Adoption is a challenge in many land management fields, but that's no reason not to try.

taipan821 wrote:From my perspective, the hazard reduction burns are great. They're cheap, relatively easy to do and make my life slightly easier and safer.


But that's exactly the thing. They're not making your life safer and easier- in fact, they're doing the opposite, and with a host of negative side effects. They're not making your life easier, as fire risk is lower in mature forest with a large interval between fires. They're not making your life safer, because (afaik) it's the large, landscape scale fires that pose the greatest risk, and hazard reduction burns do little to control these, and pre-burnt patches don't provide a refuge then.

taipan821 wrote:I challenge people here to come up with a alternative solution that is cheap


Don't conduct any hazard reduction burns at all, or only around critical assets. By definition, the smaller scope makes it cheaper. Much of the rest of the landscape is adapted in a way that lets it respond to fire well, and will become more resilient to fire as it matures.

taipan821 wrote:If you won't go out to fight the fire, then how can you complain about what the fire fighters do?


Personally, I don't like the suggestion that because I'm not at the coal-face of whatever issue is being discussed, I can't have a rational, informed opinion on the subject. I don't think the fact that I'm not a fire-fighter means my comments on management are invalid. I'm not disparaging firefighters themselves, volunteer or otherwise- I certainly don't have the knowledge of fire fighting organisations to do that.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby taipan821 » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 11:45 pm

LachlanB, I do not think your comments are invalid, but the first thing I was taught in rural firefighting with regards to hazard reduction burns was that my safety and life might be riding on this area not having a high fuel load, so you make sure it's done properly.

I mentioned in my first post, it takes a lot of water to put out a fire. rural fire fighting appliances don't carry alot of water (my brigade has two trucks, water capacity 1000 and 1500 litres). So the emphasis is fighting fire with fire. If I'm fighting a bushfire, I would like as much burnt ground in between me and the fire as I can manage. Sometimes I might get a few metres, other times I might get a good, decent burn. the burnt area keeps the heat away from me, prevents the fire from burning anything on the truck and reduces the chance of the fire jumping lines.

Hazard reduction burns are just that, putting burnt area between me and the fire...I just can do them in advanced in ideal weather conditions and at a relaxed pace, not in high wind conditions and on the clock. Also Hazard reduction burns offer great training opportunities, allowing brigades to teach new firefighters how to black out an area, what to look fire and basic fire fighting skills.

So If I seemed rude I apologise, but from the coal face I don't want to be putting my life at risk if something was preventable. A burnt paddock won't burn, a green paddock won't burn....but a paddock full of tall, brown grass, will go up in hot flames really easy.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby highercountry » Tue 17 Apr, 2018 11:53 pm

Australia Day 2003 I watched a section of the Vic Alps Fire burst out of the bush North of Benambra and roll across severely drought stricken, bare grazing land in the vicinity of Lake Omeo.
Waves of flame up to thirty feet high swept across dirt dry paddocks then rolled and spotted down into the Tambo/Bindi Valleys, a distance of at least 10-15 km's. Totally clear country. There was not a scrap of fuel in it's path until it hit bushland further to the south.
That same day spot fires were occurring well in excess of 20 km's ahead of the main fire front.
Repeated back burning, extensive dozer cut breaks up to 8 blades wide, earlier fuel reduction burns, "safely" cleared logging coupes, cleared farmland all failed to curtail the path of the fire.
Don't anybody kid themselves that human effort can pull-up the course of a severe, intense wildfire.
In the 2006/2007 season another massive fire burnt through many of the previously burnt areas of '03. The earlier fire did little if anything to reduce the intensity or extent of the later fire.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Moondog55 » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 8:17 am

3 years equals a heck of a lot of fuel on the ground, all that scrub and dry low growth, of course it meant a hot fire the next time because fuel was allowed to build up, plus you had all that standing dry timber in perfect condition for fuel. We don't burn enough and often enough to make a difference yet and we still haven't caught up with the difference current climate change is making. I'll happily put my gear on and tackle a 10 metre flame wall but i don't want to be within a hundred klicks of a flame wall a kilometre high.
The best way to fight wildfires in this country is reversing climate change and going back to original inhabitants firestick technology coupled with massive geomorphological works in central Australia and the cessation of non-food production irrigation; none of which people are prepared to pay for with much higher taxes
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 8:33 am

Warin wrote:
potato wrote:Show me the evidence, the actual science that hazard reduction works.


A burn reduces the fuel load.

Science/research ? http://www.bushfirecrc.com/ and https://www.bnhcrc.com.au/


A link to a website is unfortunately not evidence and as discussed before - fires are far more complex than fuel alone.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 8:52 am

Warin wrote:
potato wrote:Yep but even a well designed fire break will do nothing under the right conditions. Paddocks hundreds of metres wide and grazed bare to the ground burnt across parts of NSW and the ACT in 2003. Fire is much more complex than fuel alone.

Disagree.
A MANNED fire brake (of sufficient width to keep the workers safe, and with enough people) will protect adjacent buildings. The buildings have to be able to withstand ember attack.
potato wrote:So it comes back to - is hazard reduction worth it? Not really.

Depends.
What it the rate of;
hazard generation (to some level)
hazard reduction frequency (reduced to some level, and at some height)
etc...

Too many variables to have a general rule. So there can be no single answer.


No need to shout. I note that Sydney for instance has about 2000km of potential fire front - how do we find the people to defend that length of fire break? Do we need to bulldoze more fire breaks - that is a lot to ask of the parks and local governments.

I do agree that there is no single answer but I argue that hazard reduction isn't the effective tool it is promoted to be.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby highercountry » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 9:29 am

Moondog55 wrote:The best way to fight wildfires in this country is reversing climate change...


That, is the nub of the conversation.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby crollsurf » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 9:47 am

There seems to be no rule that applies to all environments. Some environments find a balance where the litter stops increasing, some don't. Some flora need fires at least every x years, some will die out if there are 2 fires within y years of each other...

One thing that does appear to be consistent is that cool burning is a lot safer and in many cases, beneficial to the Flora and Fauna. No one wins when it is a fire storm and I think that's what it's all about. Getting in there first to eliminate the chance of a devastating fire taking hold in the hottest, driest part of the year.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 10:35 am

crollsurf wrote:There seems to be no rule that applies to all environments. Some environments find a balance where the litter stops increasing, some don't. Some flora need fires at least every x years, some will die out if there are 2 fires within y years of each other...

One thing that does appear to be consistent is that cool burning is a lot safer and in many cases, beneficial to the Flora and Fauna. No one wins when it is a fire storm and I think that's what it's all about. Getting in there first to eliminate the chance of a devastating fire taking hold in the hottest, driest part of the year.


I haven't seen any published info on litter accumulation rates that suggest accumulation rates never stop. From my understanding in the absence of fire, accumulation rates get to a point where decomposition is greater than accumulation. If that wasn't the case there would be a lot of litter out there.

There are also many ecosystems that require a moderate to large fire.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby taipan821 » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 10:55 am

Not only that, the differences in the type of flora in the area. up here (North Queensland) it's mostly grass, fast growing and fast burning. Down in NSW and Victoria it's forests, with the destructive crown fires.

Sorry to the people down in victoria and nsw, but I am never going to deploy to fight a bushfire down there. those fires scare me
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Warin » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 11:17 am

highercountry wrote:
Moondog55 wrote:The best way to fight wildfires in this country is reversing climate change...


That, is the nub of the conversation.


Devastating wild fires were happening before 'climate change' was thought of.

Victoria Royal Commission "it appeared the whole State was alight on Friday, 13 January 1939"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_bushfires
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby highercountry » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 11:20 am

Warin wrote:Devastating wild fires were happening before 'climate change' was thought of.


Not with anything like the frequency, extended fire season and duration that is occurring in SE Aust. now.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby crollsurf » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 11:29 am

potato wrote:I haven't seen any published info on litter accumulation rates that suggest accumulation rates never stop...

http://www.publish.csiro.au/BT/BT9790157?CFID=40216625&CFTOKEN=8964ce54269ec942-BFAC141D-9677-748D-F2CAE0C4A8EBD405
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Mark F » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 12:18 pm

I read this paper in full a long time ago so I am a little vague on its contents. I believe that the paper is about litter accumulation exclusively and does not look at effect of decomposition in determining a total litter load. What the paper says is that accumulation rates reach a steady state after 10 years. The rate and the time period for other locations will vary with the vegetation type, climate etc but are also expected to reach a steady state.

Another paper you could look at is https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1442-9993.1986.tb00913.x which examines the both accumulation and decomposition and finds that the total litter load does reach a steady state.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Moondog55 » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 12:35 pm

10 years of litter accumulation in dry schlerophyll forest can mean a huge fire burden as the typical Australian litter consists of a branch profile of the most desired size for kindling and rapid establishment of a hot fire. Only to be expected in a fire adapted and dependent ecosystem. Get off the road and walk into the deep gullies along side the road up to Falls Creek and already we have an accumulation of thumb and finger litter about 600 thick.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Mark F » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 1:18 pm

The problem comes in the question of "how often do you burn?" In the situation you mention md, you would need to burn about every 3 years or less to keep litter at half the level you note and that fire frequency is likely to change the floristics quite severely - to more fire adapted species. Even 300mm of litter can support a good conflagration. While there may be 600mm? of litter the lower layers are likely to be reasonably damp in all but the very driest times. If you want to maintain that dry? (I would have thought it would be at the wetter end of the spectrum) schlerophyll forest then the inter-fire period should be several decades not years. This raises the issue of what is the ultimate land management intent - maintain the existing vegetation and the associated biota or limit bush fires.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Moondog55 » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 1:40 pm

Or encourage more rain perhaps.
We can allow things to progress at the current rate or we could do something about it. The thing about the litter in the alps in not so much the tonnage of fuel but the fuel + air matrix, it is that typical loose and airy layer that is perfect for encouraging the rapid establishment of a hot, fast fire. Around here in the Brisbane rages the bushscape is not the bush I grew up with, since the establishment of the BRNP it has changed into a dense scrubby undergrowth mid and ground layer very different to the wide and open scattered trees of my teenage years which were again very different to the original much more open wooded grasslands of the early 1800s. Gold of course meant almost every single tree in and around the goldfields were cut down for balking and firewood so in my teenage years it was all tertiary regrowth as the best use for that degraded land was as a firewood source
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby bearded bushwalker » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 1:43 pm

Some scientific evidence on the effectiveness of prescribed burns from a 52 year fire history of a SW Australian eucalypt forest region. (I am not saying all regions are to be treated the same :D )

“Prescribed burning has pronouncedly changed the spatial distribution of fuel age in the study area and has significantly reduced the incidence and extent of unplanned fires.”

“The incidence of large unplanned fires was significantly less than the long-term average for the region when the annual extent of prescribed fire was at a maximum and significantly more when the annual extent of prescribed fire was at a minimum.”

Source:
Matthias M. Boer, Rohan J. Sadler, Roy S. Wittkuhn, Lachlan McCaw, Pauline F. Grierson,
Long-term impacts of prescribed burning on regional extent and incidence of wildfires—Evidence from 50 years of active fire management in SW Australian forests,
Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 259, Issue 1, 2009, Pages 132-142,
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2009.10.005.

Source is probably not freely available on the web (have to have some benefits from my employment)
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Warin » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 2:14 pm

bearded bushwalker wrote:Some scientific evidence on the effectiveness of prescribed burns


And now Potato will come up with other scientific evidence that it is not effective ...

----------------------------------------------------------------

The problem, for most, comes from the change between 'bush' and 'residential'.
That is the area where bushfire fighting takes place and where the fire fuel needs to be low.

What takes place in the 'bush' itself ... well, in political speek, there is 'no money' for that.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 3:14 pm

Warin wrote:
bearded bushwalker wrote:Some scientific evidence on the effectiveness of prescribed burns


And now Potato will come up with other scientific evidence that it is not effective ...

----------------------------------------------------------------

The problem, for most, comes from the change between 'bush' and 'residential'.
That is the area where bushfire fighting takes place and where the fire fuel needs to be low.

What takes place in the 'bush' itself ... well, in political speek, there is 'no money' for that.


It would be my pleasure...

https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/49453
...Comparison one found that variation in weather and climate was more important in determining simulated area burned than variation in fuel-load pattern and terrain in the majority of models.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.10 ... 016-0420-8
Conclusions:
Increased fuel treatment effort, within a range comparable to practical operational limits, was no more important in controlling simulated moderate-to-high intensity unplanned fire than it was for total unplanned area burned.

But at the end of the day, this ideology that hazard reduction is the key to our problems is narrow. Landscapes are far more complex than fuel and this so called hazard has important landscape functions - far more important that knocking a couple of percentage points of fire risk.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby GPSGuided » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 3:36 pm

Afte reading through all the discussions, surely it’s a case of no single solution given the wide variety of conditions and variables out bush. In the meantime, some are adamant for one or the other and the loggerhead continues. Surely, NPWS etc are applying burns in a considered manner. Not seeing them burning every location. Anyone know the debates, considerations and processes within those organisations in decisions?
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Warin » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 3:56 pm

GPSGuided wrote:Surely, NPWS etc are applying burns in a considered manner.


Ha! Political and community pressure plays a large part.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby tastrax » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 5:32 pm

How about a few Australian papers, potato, so we know it relates to Australian vegetation types?
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby taswegian » Wed 18 Apr, 2018 5:44 pm

Here's a live one happening right now.
Spoke to the blokes on site.
I'd be happy for them doing it if that was my house.

You're damned if you do and damned if you don't.

The reality is in the event of a non burn off we will never know if one would have helped in the event of a major fire, nor would we ever know what the consequences would have been if control burnt followed by a major fire had taken place.
We are left with hypothesis.
You can't reproduce such an event to try the other way.
15240369582630.jpg
Fire burn off in action right this moment
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby Warin » Thu 19 Apr, 2018 6:39 am

taswegian wrote:You can't reproduce such an event to try the other way.


The only way to convince some is a glass wall between test areas. Alternate areas get alternate treatments.
And then 'they' will argue the the test areas were different ....
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Thu 19 Apr, 2018 8:26 am

tastrax wrote:How about a few Australian papers, potato, so we know it relates to Australian vegetation types?


Tastrax - both papers consider Australian examples. One example was funded in part by the BushfireCRC. It was a 10 second search... there is a lot of literature out there suggesting hazard reduction does very little to reduce risk and is likely to increase risk in the medium term through the promotion of understorey vegetation.

Something else to consider...
https://theconversation.com/new-researc ... zing-20705

The argument to burn sounds very similar.
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Re: Bushfire hazard Reduction - worth it?

Postby potato » Thu 19 Apr, 2018 8:38 am

GPSGuided wrote:Afte reading through all the discussions, surely it’s a case of no single solution given the wide variety of conditions and variables out bush. In the meantime, some are adamant for one or the other and the loggerhead continues. Surely, NPWS etc are applying burns in a considered manner. Not seeing them burning every location. Anyone know the debates, considerations and processes within those organisations in decisions?


Yes - there is no single solution. There is not enough data to demonstrate any real benefit to prescribed burning, most burning done is political and the other is ecological.

I'm not totally convinced the managers are burning in a considered manner in every case - this was a prescribed burn in the middle of Namadgi National Park. The burn was a long way from any assets or lives and the area poses very little risk to suburban Canberra as its simply too far south.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-new ... 0xrs3.html
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