Reducing bushfire risk

The South Australian Government is committed to reducing the risk of bushfires to primary producers, the community and the environment.

Read the Farming Guidelines for the Reduction of Bushfire Risk (PDF 406.6 KB or DOC 1.8 MB) for more information on managing your farm to reduce the risk of bushfire.

Actions to reduce bushfire effects

Fire access tracks and firebreaks

Fire access tracks act as fuel breaks and help fire crews get to bushfires. Talk with your local CFS about the location and appropriate standard for fire access tracks.

If you’re using cultivated, sprayed or mowed areas as firebreaks, locate them only along fence lines adjoining areas of remnant vegetation or public roads. They should be at least 20 m in width.

If you need a firebreak for your farm forestry plantation, the size of your firebreak will be:

  • 7 m for plantations less than 40 ha
  • 20 m for plantations 40 to 100 ha.

Plan the landscape so that firebreaks work effectively. Talk to your local CSF Bushfire Management Committee about your plan.

Cutting and baling hay and straw

Strategically located cereal paddocks cut for hay or baled as straw can significantly reduce bushfire risk and improve effectiveness of fire suppression.

When cutting hay, think about the bushfire risk. Consider using:

  • a fire-resistant cover on the load
  • a spark shield behind the exhaust
  • an exhaust system under the body of the vehicle to keep exhaust emissions away from the hay.

Harvest management

Reduce stubble height to 10–15 cm during harvesting to reduce the risk of a bushfire spreading. Use straw choppers or spreaders on headers to speed up the decomposition of crop residues.

Read the Grain Harvesting Code of Practice (PDF 463.6 KB or DOC 268.5 KB) for specific and practical guidelines for harvest management during high bushfire risk times.

Stubble management

You can reduce the risk of a bushfire spreading with post-harvest stubble management, such as:

  • grazing
  • rolling
  • chaining
  • harrowing
  • slashing.

Stubble management may also help with snail management, avoid environmental issues associated with burning stubble and make seeding easier.

If you create stubble heaps to burn later, create several small heaps instead of one large heap.

Haystack management

A haystack fire can spread quickly to surrounding areas and start a bushfire if not properly managed.

Store your hay and silage:

  • in several different locations, not in one location
  • separate from other buildings, roadsides with public access, and powerlines
  • protected from rain, leaking roofs and runoff
  • with no vegetation within 20 m around the store
  • protected to keep the moisture content between 12% and 18% (depending on crop type and baling method).

Vehicles, plant and equipment management

Think about the risk of fire before grinding, welding, slashing, mowing, or driving vehicles or equipment through dry grass, pastures or crops. Driving vehicles with catalytic converters through dry vegetation is particularly hazardous.

If you need to cut, weld, solder, grind or char on a total fire ban day, you’ll need a special permit from the CFS.

Regularly check for straw or grass build up near hot bearings on vehicles, plant or equipment. Look behind for fire when using the vehicle. If vehicles, plant or equipment are going to be left unattended, check that they will not start a fire.

Fuel hazard

Assess fuel hazards to:

  • plan fire management
  • identify fuel hazards before and after a prescribed burn
  • know how difficult it might be to control a bushfire in particular vegetation.

See the Department for Environment and Water’s guide to assessing fuel hazards.

Prescribed burning

Use prescribed burning to:

  • reduce fuel loads
  • reduce the effects of bushfire on your property
  • reduce the effects of large bushfires on biodiversity (landscape protection)
  • enhance biodiversity by modifying or maintaining vegetation communities for specific plant or animal species.

However, prescribed burning is not recommended because of environment concerns. It can also promote growth of weeds, exotic grasses and fast-growing native plants that will re-establish fuel loads.

Mechanical reduction is preferred, especially where soil erosion may be an issue. Aim to leave the minimum cover needed to stabilise the soil surface.

Conducting a prescribed burn

Competent and experienced people should conduct prescribed burns.

See the Department for Environment and Water’s conducting a prescribed burn for more information.

You’ll need approval from the Native Vegetation Council before burning native vegetation.

Native vegetation

Native vegetation in most parts of the state is protected by the National Vegetation Act 1991. Sometimes clearance of native vegetation for fuel reduction is allowed.

You’ll need to comply with requirements or apply for approval. See the Department for Environment and Water’s clearing native vegetation for more information.

Contacts

PIRSA emergency management

Website: https://pir.sa.gov.au/emergency_management/bushfire support

South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS)

Call 000 if it’s an emergency.

Headquarters: (08) 8115 3300
Bushfire information hotline: 1800 362 361
Region contact numbers: https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/site/about_cfs/contact_the_cfs.jsp
Website: www.cfs.sa.gov.au

Department for Environment and Water

Phone: (08) 8204 1910
Website: www.environment.sa.gov.au

Native Vegetation Council

Phone: (08) 8303 9777
Email: nvc@sa.gov.au
Website: https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/about-us/boards-and-committees/native-vegetation-council

Forestry SA

Phone: (08) 8391 8800
Website: https://www.forestrysa.com.au/

Page Last Reviewed: 30 Jan 2020
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