Hazard reduction burning had little to no effect in slowing extreme bushfires

Source(s): Guardian, the (UK)

By Adam Morton


Forest scientists from the University of Melbourne said initial results suggested hazard reduction was best used in a targeted way around assets to help protect them from less intense fires.

It challenges claims by some politicians that state governments should substantially increase hazard reduction, possibly to meet a target of 5% of land each year. The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has suggested he may introduce national standards that would report on how much hazard reduction the states carried out each year.


The University of Melbourne desktop analysis used Rural Fire Service data to compare the size and severity of this season’s bushfires area with hazard reduction burns over the past five years. The majority of the area in which there had been prescribed burning had been razed again by bushfire in the past three months.


Baker said it suggested prescribed burning was most effective when used as part of a risk-based system designed to help protect chosen assets – human life, biodiversity, property and water catchments – rather than based on an arbitrary numeric target. He said a 5% annual target risked leading to swathes of remote landscape being burned without significantly reducing the risk to assets.


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