Fire management planning

Our fire management practices are based on research and thorough planning. We have developed specific strategies, plans, policies and procedures for managing fire in our national parks.

National Parks Staff Planning for FireFire events in national parks include planned burns and bushfires. Planning and preparation for these events is essential for effective fire management for each landscape and community in NSW.

Policies and procedures

The policies and procedures for fire management in NSW national parks are stated in our Fire Management Manual. We work closely with other fire management agencies to develop these guidelines including:

  • NSW Bush Fire Coordinating Committee - we help develop and review their policies and procedures
  • local Bush Fire Management Committees - we help develop Bushfire Risk Management Plans.


Our overall strategy for fire management in NSW national parks is explained in Living with Fire in NSW National Parks – A strategy for managing bushfires in national parks and reserves 2012-2021.

This strategy provides a clear framework for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to manage bushfire in national parks and outlines our priorities for future fire management and research.

As well as our state-wide strategy, individual parks, or groups of parks, have specific fire management strategies and plans.

Reserve fire management strategies

Reserve fire management strategies (RFMS) are developed for each park, or group of parks, in conjunction with park neighbours and contain risk mitigation and fire suppression information. They are used as the basis for planning hazard reduction or prescribed burns.

Hazard reduction burns are used to reduce the amount of flammable material, or fuel, in a park before the bushfire season.

Fire management strategies use a system of zones to categorise sections of reserves with different management objectives. These zones concern:

The aim of an Asset Protection Zone is to protect human life and property. These areas are usually intensively managed to maintain a moderate or lower overall fuel hazard. The protection of life and property takes precedence over biodiversity conservation in these zones.

The aim of a Strategic Fire Advantage Zone is to reduce fire intensity across larger areas by maintaining an overall fuel hazard at high or below. This is mostly done using prescribed burning. Biodiversity conservation takes precedence where practical.

The aim of a Land Management Zone is to conserve biodiversity and protect cultural heritage. In these zones, decisions to carry out hazard reduction burns are based on the extent of biodiversity and presence of cultural heritage.

Fire planning tools 

Each branch has specific fire planning documents including a risk management plan and a Branch Operations Plan. Branches develop burn plans and an incident action plans for prescribed burns.

Risk management is fundamental to our approach to managing fire in national parks. Managing the risk to life and the environment is important during planned hazard reduction activities as well as during bushfire events.

When we develop a risk management plan, we consider the potential risks and best possible outcomes posed by our fire management practices. This includes:

  • people – to ensure the health, safety and welfare of park visitors, and all people involved in fire management
  • environment and heritage ­– to conserve natural and cultural heritage
  • community – to ensure cooperation with the public, stakeholders, NSW Government, regulatory authorities and other fire management authorities
  • finance – to use resources cost-effectively and to manage fires with financial accountability.
  • compliance – to ensure fire management and suppression activities comply with our statutory and contractual obligations.

Regional operations plans outline annual works programs which are prepared to help plan and prioritise the implementation of individual fire management strategies.

Each planned burn need a prescribed Burn Plan. It defines the control lines to contain the burn, the required fire intensity to achieve objectives, the weather and seasonal conditions required during the burning operation and the light-up methods and sequences.

NPWS conducts prescribed burns for several reasons. These are:

  • reducing overall fuel hazard to assist in the protection of life, property and community assets
  • managing biodiversity to maintain the reproductive viability of a species or a community of species
  • managing introduced species, their spread and impact on native fauna and flora, and
  • researching fire behaviour and ecological response to fire.
NPWS considers the use of prescribed burning to be essential to achieve life and property protection and biodiversity objectives.

An Incident Action Plan (IAP) is prepared for each bushfire suppression operation on OEH-managed land.

The type of IAP will be in accordance with the size and complexity of the incident and will include:

  • operation objectives
  • strategies
  • tactics and tasks
  • an appropriately scaled incident map, and
  • resources and organisational structure.


Ongoing research helps us build our knowledge base and best-practice for effective fire management. The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (the department) conducts fire-related research with universities and other agencies. We actively participate in local, state, national and international committees and forums including the NSW Bush Fire Coordination Committee and the Australasian Fire Authorities Council.

The Bushfire Research Hub has been set up by the department to draw on the capabilities of our partner research institutions to meet our fire management strategic knowledge. The Hub will provide information needed to better understand how climate change will affect bushfire mitigation activities, and to evaluate the effectiveness, efficiency and impacts of the Enhanced Bushfire Management Program. The research will directly inform how we manage fire in park leading to improved conservation of natural and cultural values both on- and off-reserves.