The following publications are available to assist with Fuel Management and the conduct of Hazard Reductions around your property

'BEFORE YOU LIGHT THAT FIRE'

'GUIDELINES FOR LOW INTENSITY BUSHFIRE HAZARD REDUCTION BURNING'

'GUIDELINES FOR ASSET PROTECTION ZONES'

'APPLICATION INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BUSHFIRE HAZARD REDUCTION CERTIFICATE'

'BUSHFIRE HAZARD REDUCTION CERTIFICATE - APPLICATION FORM'

'BUSHFIRE ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT CODE'

What is Hazard Reduction?

 Full information about hazard reduction at http://www.bushfire.nsw.gov.au/index.cfm?cid=109&cfid=2454118&cftoken=92618025

 Hazard reduction is any activity that reduces or removes fuel before the onset of a bushfire, so as to minimise damage to life, property and the environment if a bushfire does occur.

 Under the Rural Fires Act 1997, land managers and owners are responsible for conducting hazard reduction to protect existing dwellings, major buildings or other assets susceptible to fire.

 A Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificate or other environmental approval may be required to clear or burn. A permit to light a fire may be required for burning hazards, particularly during the Bush Fire Danger Period. Hazard reduction either significantly reduces fuel levels around assets so they are less likely to be affected by fire, or provides adequate space for people to work in while fighting fire.

 Complete removal of fuel means an area will no longer support fire, however, such a practice may be harmful to the environment. The more common practice is to reduce the amount of fuel, in which case the fire would:

- generate less heat and be less dangerous for firefighters and the general public
- travel more slowly
- have a lower flame height and be less likely to develop into a crown fire
- be less likely to produce embers that cause spot fires.

 Methods of hazard reduction include:

- Hand clearing raking up leaves, clippings, clearing out gutters.
- Mechanical clearing mowing, slashing, ploughing, trittering, bulldozing, grading.
- Burning pile burning or activities known as controlled or prescribed burning which use fire to reduce the amount of flammable fuel.

 In many circumstances, hand and mechanical clearing methods should be considered as they could be the best way to protect assets. These methods can be safer than burning, easier to organise and maintain. Hazard Reduction burning should involve experienced landholders or qualified firefighters to ensure the fire does not escape and the operation is carried out safely. Adequate equipment and protection measures are needed.

 Many factors need to be considered including:

- weather conditions, (wind, humidity, temperature)
- availability of personnel to work on the fire
- the impact the fire will have upon local residents and other stakeholders
- the impact of the activity on the environment.

 What is the difference between hazard reduction and backburning?

 Hazard reduction is carried-out out before a bushfire starts in order to protect people and assets. Backburning is used during a bushfire emergency, to help control the fire and protect people and assets.

 Hazard reduction burning is often called controlled or prescribed burning. Highly trained fire personnel determine that the best way to reduce the risk of uncontrollable bushfires impacting on assets is to strategically burn an area to reduce fuel loads. Hazard reduction burning should be conducted in accordance with Bush Fire Risk Management Plans.

 Backburning occurs during a fire emergency when firefighting personnel determine that the best way to inhibit the progression of a bushfire is by burning back towards the oncoming fire. This removes fuel from the path of the fire, which can be an effective method of stopping its spread or reducing its impact on structures. Backburning needs to be carefully coordinated, suitably resourced and must only be used by order of a firefighting agency.

 Who is responsible for hazard reduction? You are!

 If it's your property, it's your fuel, and you are legally responsible for reducing the hazard. Effective hazard reduction is one way to prevent extensive damage to homes and businesses by bushfire.

 Under the Rural Fires Act 1997, land managers and owners are responsible for conducting hazard reduction to protect existing dwellings, major buildings or other assets susceptible to fire.

 As land owners and managers, agencies such as National Parks, State Forests and local councils reduce hazards on their property according to the strategies in Bush Fire Risk Management Plans put together by local Bush Fire Management Committees.

Private landholders or occupiers must also remove hazards on their property. The RFS gives advice and assistance on hazard reduction to all these people.

Legislative changes made in August 2002 gave the RFS Commissioner the authority to order all owners and managers of private, commercial and government land to conduct essential hazard reductions.

If hazards are not reduced, the RFS can issue a Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Notice (Section 66 notice) requiring a private landowner or manager to reduce fuel loads.

 How can you reduce bushfire hazards?

 All landowners, occupiers and managers are responsible for ensuring their property is protected from bushfire. This may involve establishing Asset Protection Zones (APZ) by reducing bushfire hazards.

 An APZ is an area surrounding an asset, such as a house, where fuel has been reduced to a level that will no longer support bushfires. It should also provide an area for firefighters and landowners to fight a bushfire.

 Make a list of possible bushfire hazards on your property. A bushfire hazard exists wherever there is bushfire fuel, i.e. combustible material. Fine fuels are the main concern, particularly leaf litter, long dry grass, garden mulch and some vegetation. Woodpiles, wooden sheds and stacked flammable building material increase vulnerability to bushfires.

 Look at your home as well. Ember attack is the main cause of houses catching alight during bushfires. Embers gain entry to houses through broken windows or gaps in and around walls or roof cladding and ignite the contents. They lodge between and ignite horizontal timber decking, guttering, steps and windowsills. They can be blown up against and ignite timber used for supports, floor joists, posts, steps and under floor space. You should block off these openings.

 Apart from fuel quantity, consider fuel location. Take note of where the bushfire hazards are. Are they next to homes, sheds, livestock or environmental or cultural assets? While dense fuels are always a hazard, it is where they can endanger life, property or the environment that they become a threat.

 The terrain the hazard is located on or near can increase the hazard. A large area of continuous vegetation on sloping land may be a hazard. Fires travel faster uphill, so take note of assets on a slope with fuel below them.

Consider prevailing wind conditions in the local area. Throughout NSW, this is generally land facing west and northwest.

 Approvals may be required for removing hazards and constructing an Asset Protection Zone. Approvals and permits help ensure that hazard reduction work does not endanger life, property and the environment. Fire permits aim to ensure burning activities are done safely. If burns escape they can kill people and destroy buildings. If hazard reduction clearing and burning are conducted incorrectly or illegally they can cause environmental damage to such things as native vegetation, endangered species or cultural assets.

 Consider the following approvals and refer to the RFS guidelines listed above for detailed advice.

Written consent of the land owner/manager is required (note: you cannot clear neighbouring land without written approval).

If you are clearing or burning hazards, you may require an environmental assessment such as a Bush Fire Hazard Reduction Certificate. Contact your local RFS District Office for advice.

If you intend to use fire to remove the hazard you may need a fire permit, particularly if the fire could threaten a building, you are in a council area that requires a permit, or you intend to light up within the Bush Fire Danger Period. Contact your local RFS District Office or NSW Fire Brigade.

When a Total Fire Ban or No Burn Day are declared in your area you cannot light a fire, even if you have a fire permit and approvals.

Advise your neighbours, local RFS District Office and NSW Fire Brigade when you are conducting a burn.

When you conduct the burn, have all your permits and approvals with you and comply with the conditions.

 Methods of hazard reduction

Reduction of fuel does not have to be as drastic as removing all vegetation. Environmentally this would be disastrous and often trees and plants can provide you with some bushfire protection from strong winds, intense heat and flying embers.

Consider the hand and mechanical clearing methods below, they could be easier to organise and maintain. If burning is the best method, low intensity burns are preferred and should be carefully planned.

 Raking or manual removal of fine fuels: Remove fuels such as fallen leaves, twigs and bark on a regular basis.

Mowing grass: Keep grass short, green and well watered.

Slashing and trittering: This is an economical method of fuel reduction. To be effective, the cut material must be removed or allowed to rot before summer starts. Slashing and mowing may leave grass in rows, increasing fuel in some places. Trittering or turbo mowing also mulches the vegetation leaving the fuel where it is cut.

Ploughing and grading: These methods can produce effective firebreaks, however, these areas need constant maintenance. Loose soil may erode in steep areas, particularly where there is high rainfall and strong winds.

Removal or pruning of trees and shrubs: The management of existing vegetation involves selective fuel reduction (removal, thinning and pruning) and retention of vegetation, which may have beneficial effects by acting as windbreaks and radiant heat barriers. Refer to the landscaping section of the RFS document, How to Establish and Maintain an Asset Protection Zone for Bushfire Protection.

Hazard reduction burning: removes excess ground litter and hazards through use of fire. Controlled burning or prescribed burning of vegetation is more often used for strategic bushfire management by land management agencies. Before burning any vegetation the type of fire should be determined. Is it a pile burn or a burn of an area of bushland? Call your local RFS District Office or NSW Fire Brigade for advice on burning. Consult RFS Guidelines for Pile Burning and Guidelines for Low Intensity Burning.