About Prescribed Burns

The ACT Parks and Conservation Service, as part of their land management duties, conduct prescribed burns which are commonly referred to as controlled burns or hazard reduction burns. Prescribed burns are of low intensity and conducted by experienced fire managers, supported by trained firefighters.

Prescribed burns involve carefully lighting fires in a predetermined area under specific weather conditions. While most of these burns are conducted during spring or autumn, experienced park managers are continually looking for suitable weather opportunities throughout the year.

A prescribed burn is conducted according to a plan, known as a 'burn plan'.  A prescribed burn plan will contain specific parameters (weather, fuel moisture, fire intensity), detailed information about the site (controlled lines, lighting procedures, unique features), and objectives. Once a plan is written, Fire Managers wait until the burn area is within prescription to implement.

While smoke is inevitable, every effort will be made to conduct the burn in weather conditions that will minimise the impact of smoke on residents. Prior to leaving the burn unattended, a risk assessment and a buffer zone of up to 20 metres is completed around the perimeter. Stumps and heavy logs may continue to smoulder and some smoke and flames may be visible in the interior of the burn after personnel have left the scene. Additionally, staff will revisit the site to monitor the burn until no smoke is visible for 24 hours.

Prescribed burns have become a valuable management tool and aim to:

  1. Protect assets:
    • This can include homes, sheds, buildings, radio towers, and other critical infrastructure.
  2. Protect our rural landscape:
    • Create strategic fire breaks that help prevent fires spreading.
    • Many Australian forests have evolved to require fire over time to maintain species composition.
  3. Protect Canberra's water supply.
  4. Promote ecological diversity:
    • Removal of invasive plant species.
    • Restore and protect the habitat of plants and animals.
    • Recycle nutrients back to the soil while promoting the growth of trees and plants
  5. Improve fire fighter safety by reducing fuels in strategic areas to assist in suppression activities.

Prescribed burns: frequently asked questions

Video Transcript: Seen Smoke lately?

ACT Parks and Conservation implements a prescribed burn program each year to reduce possible bushfire fuel loads.

Prescribed burns are carried out in predetermined areas under specific weather conditions.

They reduce fire risk and protect assets such as buildings.

Burns can also be done for ecological reasons such as regenerating native grasslands.

Trained fire fighters perform these operation. Every effort is made to do them in weather that reduces the impact of smoke.

Fire managers assess conditions on the fire ground to determine when it is safe to leave the area.

Smoke and flames will be extinguished up to 20 metres from the edge of any prescribed burn prior to personnel leaving.

Stumps and heavy logs may still smoke and small flames remain visible in a burn area after fire trucks have left. This is normal.

Fire crews continue to patrol and monitor the area until no smoke is visible for 24 hours.

For more information, please call Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or follow @ACT_Parks on Twitter.