- On average, less than five per cent of NSW bushfires occur in parks each year.
- Fires in parks start for a variety of reasons, including lightning strikes, arson, legal and illegal burn-offs and motor vehicles.
- All parks and reserves managed by DECCW have a fire management strategy that focuses on protecting life and property as well as ecological systems.
- As at 30 June 2010, DECCW has undertaken almost 1000 prescribed burns on park, covering nearly 300,000 hectares since 2004.
- During the 2009/10 financial year, DECCW completed almost 270 burns and reduced fuel over 93,000 hectares. This represents the largest prescribed burning season on record.
- DECCW has approximately 400 incident management personnel and 900 fire fighters, of which approximately 550 are trained and equipped to undertake remote area fire fighting.
With vast areas of forests and grasslands, south-eastern Australia has been one of the world's most bushfire-prone areas for millions of years. Australian plant and animal species have evolved to survive in their fire prone environment and many species even rely on fire for their survival.
In NSW, the incidence of fire varies greatly from year to year. The number of fires is most closely linked to weather patterns and, in particular, the occurrence of extreme fire conditions. Climate change has the potential to change fire regimes, with predictions of hotter and dryer weather in NSW and more days each year with extreme fire weather conditions.
DECCW is one of the state's four designated fire fighting authorities and works in close partnership with the NSW Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire Brigades and Forests NSW to prevent, plan, prepare, respond and recover from bushfires. For DECCW, fire management in parks involves efforts to:
- safeguard human life and property
- manage the risk of wildfire
- protect Aboriginal sites, objects and history
- achieve ecologically appropriate fire regimes.
DECCW works closely with other agencies and park neighbours to develop fire management practices to achieve these aims across the landscape.
Fire is not just an issue within the park system. Of the thousands of bushfires that burn every year, only a small proportion occur in parks - on average less than five per cent. During the 2008/09 fire season, for example, 166 bushfires occurred inside the park system compared to 5293 across NSW. Of the fires in parks, the majority are controlled within the park (Table 2).
Table 2: Where fires in parks start
Start on park / controlled on park
Start on park / move off park
Start off park / move on park
Total number of fires in parks
Fires in parks start for a variety of reasons, including lightning strikes, arson, legal and illegal burn-offs and motor vehicles (Table 3). On average around 30 per cent of fires in parks each year are ignited by lightning, often in remote and inaccessible terrain. In some years, the figure is over 50 per cent. Acts of criminal arson are also a major cause of fire in parks. In the 2008/09 fire season, for example, 28 per cent of the fires affecting the NSW parks were suspected or known to have been started by arson (46 fires out of 166).
Table 3: How fires start in the NSW park system
Hazard reduction, Garigal National Park
In order to minimise the impacts of fire on life and property and to support appropriate environmental needs, DECCW is committed to hazard reduction burning and carries out burns whenever weather conditions allow. Since the 2004 State of the Parks report, DECCW has undertaken 980 prescribed burns on park, covering nearly 300,000 hectares (Table 4). During the 2009/10 year, DECCW completed 269 burns, and reduced fuel over 93,000 hectares. This represents the best 12-month result ever achieved.
Table 4: Number and area of prescribed burns since 2004/05
Number of prescribed burns
DECCW has undertaken comprehensive fire management planning in NSW parks. In preparing reserve fire management strategies, DECCW considers any specific reserve, species, threats and cultural heritage conservation issues that are identified in relevant reserve plans of management, species recovery plans, threat abatement plans or conservation management plans. DECCW also considers fuel levels, assets and fire control advantages on adjacent land. Landscape-level planning, such as catchment action plans, regional and local environmental plans, tourism plans and vegetation and water sharing plans, are also taken into account.
Extensive resources are available for fire management in NSW parks. DECCW has approximately 400 incident management personnel and 900 staff trained for fire fighting, of which approximately 550 are trained and equipped to undertake remote area fire fighting. The experience of these staff ensures DECCW can respond rapidly to fire incidents and operate effectively.
Bouddi National Park
Fire does not recognise boundaries, so DECCW's responsibilities do not stop at the park boundary. DECCW continues to work cooperatively with all fire authorities such as the Rural Fire Service, neighbours, land managers and local bush fire risk management committees to foster community understanding and appreciation of fire and bushfire management issues.
DECCW is also a partner in the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centreh (CRC), which enables the best of Australia's fire ecologists, scientists and land managers to share information and engage in collaborative programs. DECCW is a 'core participant' in the Bushfire CRC and is committed to contributing both financial and in-kind support. Through the CRC, we will continue to learn more about how fire reacts in different situations, terrains and vegetation types.
- Implement and review reserve fire management strategies.
- Work with fire authorities and management committees to protect life, property, land and biodiversity from the impacts of fire.
- Support and provide input into the implementation of bushfire risk management plans across the state being led by the Bush Fire Coordinating Committee.
- Foster links with universities, leading fire authorities and the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre to advance research into bushfire management and the impact of climate change.
Page last updated: 03 March 2011