Recovery and rehabilitation
The NSW State Disaster Plan (Displan) defines recovery as encompassing human support services and reconstruction/rehabilitation services.
Recovery is an integral component of fire management and involves wildlife rescue, rehabilitation and restoration of areas damaged during fire suppression operations, restoration of park infrastructure or personal property damaged by fire and recovery of the local community when a fire has had an impact on the economic or social wellbeing of the community (e.g. effect on power or water supply, access, stock or income).
Rescue of wildlife
Fire may have a direct impact on animals through injury and loss of habitat. The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) and wildlife rescue volunteers rehabilitate and treat native animals affected by fires.
Under the NSW State Disaster Plan (Displan), NSW Agriculture is responsible for the humane care of injured fauna during large-scale incident fires (these are class 3 fires that are declared under Section 44 of the Rural Fires Act 1997). The Incident Management Team (IMT) liaises with NSW Agriculture to coordinate the care of injured fauna.
For class 1 and 2 fires, the OEH has legislative responsibilities for native fauna, and duty-of-care obligations for other fauna. Areas affected by the passage of fire however, are potentially hazardous environments for humans and strategies for the rescue of injured wildlife considering the safety of wildlife carers are prepared as part of the fire rehabilitation planning process conducted by the Incident Management Team (IMT).
Rehabilitation of landscapes
Native vegetation will recover from fire over time. The time required will depend upon the fire regime requirements of the vegetation community and will be influenced by successive fire events.
In areas where weed invasion from seed stock in the soil or from surrounding areas or feral animal invasion may occur or, where damage to the vegetation occurred as a result of fire suppression activities, rehabilitation and regeneration may be required to assist the ecosystem to fully rehabilitate.
After a fire OEH undertakes soil erosion control works on all tracks and areas cleared as part of fire suppression operations and replants these areas with local indigenous native plants where required. Soil erosion works are particularly important in areas that fall within water catchments or where river or wetland ecosystems will be affected by sedimentation.
Weed and feral animal control programs are often implemented in areas after fires by OEH to help restore native ecosystems.
Restoration of infrastructure
OEH's primary fire management responsibility is for the protection of life and property. In extreme fire conditions however, park infrastructure such as picnic tables, sheds, toilets etc. and on rare occasions, adjoining private property such as sheds, fences or stock may be damaged as a result of fire. OEH endeavours to reopen closed areas and parks to the public as soon as practical after a fire however this may take time where park infrastructure needs to be replaced or where safety hazards such as fencing or falling trees need to be repaired.
Large fires that affect private property as well as park are declared state incidents under Section 44 of the Rural Fires Act 1997. Private property losses resulting from these fires can be claimed through a Treasury managed insurance fund.
Recovery of the community
Fire can have a devastating affect on local communities. Community members do not have to loose property to suffer fear and anxiety as a result of a bushfire. Research has proven that an informed and prepared community will suffer less anxiety and less property loss than an unprepared and uninformed community. OEH works closely with park neighbours, other fire authorities and local communities to help educate and prepare them for the fire season. OEH also actively invites park neighbours to contribute to the development of Reserve Fire Management Strategies and engage in cooperative hazard reduction activities.
Learning is an essential part of improving operations and OEH conducts thorough debriefs after every fire and prescribed burn. Debriefs will often involve other fire authorities and agencies as well as park neighbours and aim to extract information about how the fire was run, the effectiveness of suppression operations, what worked and what could be done better. Information from these debriefs is fed back into the development of policy (Bush Fire Coordinating Committee policies and the Fire Management Manual (PDF 2.7MB)) and to research forums and institutions.
Page last updated: 07 December 2015