Fire Management: Imbalanced and Misunderstood?
Rural fires occur from the edge of highly developed and urbanised land through to remote and inaccessible wilderness. Ignition sources are numerous and varied, and nearly always from people. Fire impacts range from catastrophic to beneficial. Fire is an integral and important component of most natural ecosystems, and efforts to eliminate it may be neither practicable nor desirable. Equally, unplanned fire is neither desirable nor welcome in areas such as agricultural lands. In order to have any success in ‘managing’ fire there must be a good understanding and knowledge of fire in the landscape being managed. To establish what is required for fire management it is necessary to consider and frame the factors systematically. I present the key identified areas of fire management — analysis, prevention, preparedness, response and recovery — to highlight some questions and concepts that should be applied. Aspects of fires that are important for the focus for fire management have been set out in the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan of the Australian Capital Territory and in the Canadian Wildfire Strategy. Fires ignite THEN spread through fuels THEN impact on assets (human built or environmental). We can prevent/reduce ignitions; prevent/reduce the chance for fires to spread; prevent/reduce the negative impacts on assets. The mix of these options and the balance between them will vary with circumstance. Systematically framing fire management factors in combination with what fires do when they start, burn and impact more clearly identifies where the ‘fire problem’ might be found.
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