PLANNED BURNING

If you own or manage land in Western Australia it is your responsibility to reduce the risk of bushfire impacting it.

Planned burning

If you own or manage land in Western Australia it is your responsibility to reduce the risk of bushfire impacting it. This applies to all landholders and land occupiers, including private homes, businesses and government.

One of the most effective ways you can reduce fuel loads and the risk of bushfire is planned burning.

Planned burning describes deliberately burning a predetermined area under appropriate environmental conditions to reduce fuel loads (the vegetation and dead plant material that can burn in a fire). Planned burns are undertaken under mild and stable weather conditions so that the fire burns slowly and is controllable with low flame heights.

When a bushfire enters an area of reduced fuel, the rate of bushfire spread slows and the intensity at which it burns is reduced. This means property owners and firefighters have a better chance of containing the fire and it is less likely to cause damage to property.

It is important to note however that you are responsible for any fire you light and, if it escapes, you may be liable for the damage it causes. The following information is designed to help you Burn SMART.

Tip

You may have heard of hazard or fuel reduction burns, burn offs, prescribed burns and controlled burns. These are all names for planned burns.

Planned burning on my property

Why should you do planned burns?

Reducing fuel increases the chances of your property surviving a bushfire. The more fuel available to a bushfire, the hotter the fire can burn and the harder it is to control.  Flammable material such as leaf litter, fallen branches, dead grasses and shrubs provide fuel for fire, allowing it to grow more quickly and burn at higher temperatures. This increases the likelihood of damage to your property, neighbouring properties and the environment. In comparison, reduced fuel levels assist not only in reducing how quickly a fire can spread, but it also reduces its spotting distance (how far the fire can jump).

Planned burning is a particularly efficient way to remove fuel over larger areas. When used appropriately, it generally results in less environmental disturbance than other methods. Many native plants and animals can also benefit from periodic fire.

When does planned burning take place?

‍When you burn depends on where you live in Western Australia. Generally, planned burns should be undertaken when:

  • The weather is cool.
  • The wind is light to gentle (less than 20 kilometres per hour).
  • There is enough moisture in the vegetation (it is ideal to burn after two days, but not more than 10 days, since five millimetres of rain or greater).

It is very important to look at the weather forecast for the next several days to ensure that the mild conditions continue after the day of the burn.

In the south of the State, planned burning on private lands is best planned and conducted from April to October. In the north of the State, planned burning takes place in the late wet season to early dry season which is approximately February to May depending on seasonal conditions.

As a landholder or occupier of land it is your responsibility to manage fuel loads in accordance with the regulations and requirements of your local government. Contact your local government or visit their website for fire notice information including burning restrictions and conditions. Legal requirements can be found in the Burn SMART guide which you can download here.

How do I conduct a planned burn?

Undertaking a planned burn is a significant responsibility and involves a lot of preparation. In the wrong conditions, planned burns can escape and become a bushfire.

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has developed Burn SMART resources to support planned burning in areas of forest, woodland or tall shrubland in the Jarrah Forest, Swan Coastal Plain and Warren Biogeographic Regions of Western Australia. The Burn SMART resources are targeted at small landholders with a property of two hectares or less.

In the future, resources that are applicable to the vegetation types and mitigation methods of other regions may be developed.

If you live outside of these areas mentioned or your property is larger than two hectares, please contact your local government to receive additional local advice on planned burning.

The checklist below lists the steps you need to take during the key stages of preparing and conducting a planned burn. More information about these steps can be found in the Burn SMART guide.

Stages 1 and 2
Planning the burn
Planning should be undertaken weeks or even months in advance of your planned burn.

Develop a fuel management strategy for your property.
Sketch how you will divide your property into manageable burn patches.
Refer to full instructions on pages 12-14 of the Burn SMART guide.

Contact your local government for information on burning restrictions in your area.
A permit to burn will be required during restricted burning season.

Prepare your burn patch.
Refer to and complete the list of preparations on page 14 of the Burn SMART guide.

Stage 3
Before the burn

Confirm that it has been two days, but not more than 10 days, since it last rained (five mm or greater). You can check at www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/

Check for mild weather conditions for the next several days at www.weather.bom.gov.au. Do not burn if strong winds and dry conditions are forecast.

Ensure all equipment is available and in good working order.
Include a metal rake, shovel, hose or another source of water.

Confirm that the people helping you with the burn are still available.

Notify all neighbours no less than four days prior to burning. This includes neighbours separated by a road, lane or waterway.

Stages 4 and 5
Day of the burn

Visit www.emergency.wa.gov.au for current Total Fire Ban and Fire Danger Ratings in your area.

Visit www.bom.gov.au/wa/warnings to check that the Bureau of Meteorology has not issued a severe weather, strong wind warning or haze alert for your area.

Check your local weather forecast at www.bom.gov.au/places/wa.
Wind speeds should be less than 20 kilometres per hour.
Relative humidity should be greater than or equal to 40%.

Notify your local government of your intent to burn, if required.
If a permit has been issued, ensure burn conditions comply with those outlined on the permit and any additional notifications are completed.

Complete the leaf moisture method on pages 8-9 of the Burn SMART Guide.
Confirm fuel moisture levels are appropriate for a burn.

Call your neighbours and remind them that you’re burning today.

Register your burn with the DFES Communications Centre on 08 9395 9209.

Conduct a pre-burn briefing with everyone who will be helping with your burn.

Know the steps you need to take in Stage 5: During the burn shown on page 17 of the Burn SMART Guide.

If the above steps have been completed and the conditions are suitable, progress with your burn.

Stage 6
After the burn

Check the burn area the following day to ensure the fire has not reignited. There should be no smoke, smoldering vegetation or glowing embers.

Thoroughly check the burn patch several times a day for at least two days after the burn. Check for longer if the weather becomes hotter, drier or windier. Larger fuels may continue to smoulder for several days and potentially reignite. Monitor the area until you are confident that the burn is completely extinguished.

For more advice, consult your local government. Always check with your local government for their requirements before conducting a burn.

Download the resources

Burn SMART Guide

The Burn SMART Guide replaces the DFES Winter Burning Guide. The Burn SMART Guide assists property owners in planning and implementing planned burns when conditions are suitable to safely reduce bushfire risk.

The current edition of the Burn SMART Guide refers to the following regions: Jarrah Forest, Swan Coastal Plain and Warren.

Map of the Biogeographic regions this guide applies to in Western Australia including Jarrah Forest, Swan Coastal Plain and Warren. Source: Thackway, R., & Cresswell, I. D. (1995). An Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia: a framework for establishing the national system of reserves, Version 4.0. Australian Nature Conservation Agency, Canberra, 88.

To obtain printed copies of the Burn SMART Guide, contact DFES Community Preparedness at CommunityPreparedness@dfes.wa.gov.au. For further enquiries email BushfireCoE@dfes.wa.gov.au.

Download

Fact sheet

The Planned Burning Fact Sheet explains what planned burning is and why it's important. This is a great reference resource, however the Burn SMART Guide should be followed for detailed information on planned burning.

Leaf Moisture Method

The Leaf Moisture Method is a way to measure whether the moisture content of litter is suitable for a planned burn.

Burn SMART Checklist

The Burn SMART Checklist provides steps to take to plan the burn, before the burn, during the burn and after the burn. The Burn SMART Checklist references the Burn SMART Guide for more information. It is advised they are used together.

Health Considerations

Be considerate of your neighbours when planning and conducting your burn. Consider wind direction to minimise direct impact of smoke and break the burn patch into smaller areas to reduce smoke volume and duration.

If smoke affects you:

  • If the smoke is particularly thick, it is recommended people shut doors and windows and turn off air-conditioners.
  • People with asthma and pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses
    should follow their pre-prepared treatment plan.
  • People with conditions exacerbated by smoke should take precautions in
    line with their medical advice for these circumstances
  • For more information visit Department of Health

Planned burning on government land

In Western Australia, planned burning involves many organisations as part of a shared responsibility. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA), Water Corporation and local governments conduct planned burning on land that they manage.

DFES conducts planned burns on unallocated crown land and unmanaged reserves in the metropolitan area and all town sites in Western Australia on behalf of the Department of Planning, Lands and Heritage (DPLH). DBCA are responsible for planned burning in land vested in the Conservation Commission, such as national parks, state forests, nature reserves, and conservation reserves. They also conduct planned burns on unallocated crown land and reserves outside of gazetted townsites on behalf of DPLH. Local governments are responsible for planned burning on their land within shire boundaries.

DFES is incorporating and advocating traditional fire knowledge and practices where possible in its planned burning. Through the Bushfire Centre of Excellence, DFES is developing a traditional fire program aimed at further integrating traditional fire techniques and activities into contemporary fire management.

Tip

You may have heard of hazard or fuel reduction burns, burn offs, prescribed burns and controlled burns. These are all names for planned burns.

When is planned burning done on government land?

Planned burns on government land are subject to extensive preparation and consultation, and carried out by experienced personnel under supervision. Planned burns will be undertaken on government land when:

  • The weather is cool;
  • The wind is light to gentle; and
  • There is enough moisture in the vegetation to ensure that fire impacts are minimal and that fires remain controllable.

In the south of the State, these conditions occur mainly from March to November but burning can continue year-round in the far south if seasonal conditions are appropriate. This is because government agencies such as DBCA receive permission to burn during the prohibited period when it is necessary and safe to do so.

In the north of State, burning is conducted from late wet season to early dry season (February to May depending on seasonal conditions), when winds are predictable and the ground vegetation is not fully cured, and fires tend to be relatively low intensity, patchy and limited in extent.

To provide accurate notice of where and when planned burning will take place can be challenging as the decision to commence planned burning involves consideration of many factors. The final decision to carry out a planned burn is made on the day and is dependent on suitable weather conditions, fuel moisture and resource availability.

Active planned burns can be found at www.emergency.wa.gov.au.

Click here for a list of prescribed burns being conducted by DFES personnel or Volunteer brigades.

Why conduct planned burning on government land?

Planned burning reduces the amount of fuel during cooler months to decrease risk of bushfires during the hotter months. It protects lives, property, infrastructure and the environment from bushfires through a carefully designed system of fuel reduced areas. The aim in most instances is to produce a low intensity burn that reduces the fuel load without adversely affecting the environment, wildlife or ecosystems. Private landholders and land occupiers can also achieve low intensity burns to reduce their bushfire risk. Learn more.

Want to know more about planned burning in your area?

For more information you can also visit the DBCA’s Parks and Wildlife Service Prescribed Burning page.

If smoke affects you:

  • If the smoke is particularly thick, it is recommended people shut doors and windows and turn off air-conditioners.
  • Smoke may reduce visibility on some roads and motorists should take care, turn on headlights and travel at appropriate speeds when travelling in these areas.
  • People with asthma and pre-existing respiratory or cardiovascular illnesses should follow their pre-prepared treatment plan.
  • People with conditions exacerbated by smoke should take precautions in line with their medical advice for these circumstances.
  • For more information visit Department of Health.