- Higher rainfall than other parts of Victoria
- Coastal, mountain and farm communities
- The Otway Ranges are the main geographic feature
- Dense population close to forests and bushland
- Prioritising fuel management within 3 km of high-risk towns
- Planned burning to help prevent major bushfires from reaching priority communities
- Partnering with the community and CFA to manage risk on private land
- Preventing burning in some areas to protect sensitive ecosystems
The Barwon Otway bushfire risk landscape team is strengthening relationships with communities and agencies in order to reduce bushfire risk. We have a strong focus on engaging meaningfully with Barwon Otway communities and staff from other agencies responsible for bushfire management.
We have recently completed a two year project which convened an advisory group of Otway community members and agency staff to advise DELWP of the preferred bushfire management strategy for the Barwon Otway bushfire risk landscape. The Strategic Bushfire Assessment and Selection Strategy (SBRASS) project participants considered the objectives of bushfire management and made trade-offs in order to reduce risk to human life and communities whilst maintaining ecosystem resilience. The project demonstrated the benefits of working together to plan for bushfire management.
You can get involved and have your say about strategic bushfire management in the Barwon Otway landscape in several ways:
Strategic Bushfire Management Planning
We have developed a strategic bushfire management planning framework that, with the help of communities, identifies values to be protected from bushfire, assesses bushfire risk to those values and sets out strategies to manage this risk.
So far we have developed strategies to manage fuel on public land, and our framework allows us to extend this to private land. Our robust and community-centred approach means that over time we can progressively develop other strategies beyond fuel management, to reduce bushfire risk in partnership with communities.
DELWP and Parks Victoria have released the first generation of strategic bushfire management plans – describing our approach to bushfire fuel management on public land in Victoria.
In 2016, we will commence the second generation plans, involving communities in developing strategies to manage bushfire fuels across public and private land – bringing together local knowledge and values with world-leading bushfire science and modelling capability.
The residual risk curve tells a story about how bushfires, recovering fuels after bushfires and our fuel management activities, affect the changing levels of bushfire risk across the landscape over time.
Within the Barwon Otway BRL, residual risk is currently at around 65%.
Residual risk fell sharply in 1983 following the Ash Wednesday bushfires, highlighting that a significant portion of risk in the Barwon Otway area is located in the Eastern Otways.
The level of risk steadily increased between 1983 and through early 2000's due to fuel re-accumulating across the landscape.
Since the mid 2000's, there has been an increased focus on strategic fuel management in the Barwon Otway area, with a targeted program of treatment within 2-3km of high risk townships and concentration of burning along the northern slopes of the Otway Ranges. This has resulted in a sustained 20-25% reduction in bushfire risk in the Barwon Otway BRL.
Residual risk is projected to decrease to around 50% over the next three years as planned burning scheduled in the fire operations plan is carried out.
Without planned burning, residual risk would return to levels above 75% by 2018.
Understanding the impact of fire on ecosystems requires first being able to define and measure ecosystem resilience. Tolerable Fire Interval (TFI) and Vegetation Growth Stage Structure (GSS) are used as indicators of ecosystem resilience at a landscape level. These allow us to better understand ecosystem resilience and the impacts of fire.
Within the Barwon Otway landscape, around 25% of vegetation on public land is currently below minimum TFI.
In 2014/15, less than one percent of vegetation on public land was burnt by bushfire or planned burning while below minimum TFI.
From 1991 through to 2000, the area of vegetation on public land below minimum TFI slowly decreased from around 25% to just over 15%. This occurred as vegetation burnt in the Black Friday bushfires of 1939 and Ash Wednesday bushfires of 1983 reached minimum TFI.
Following a period of relative stability, the area of vegetation below minimum TFI has increased to over 25% within the past seven years, due to increased planned burning in drier vegetation types. It is expected that the area burnt while below minimum TFI in the treatable vegetation types will increase over the next decade due to planned burning in higher risk areas.