Do many burns escape?
Research data over a 20-year period indicates that very few burns escape. Over the 20 years an average of 584 fires started each year because of lightning, campfire, human error and other causes. Of those 584 fires only nine fires occurred each year because of escaping planned burns. This is about 2% of all fires and about 5% of the total area burnt.
How does DEPI manage the risk of escape?
Carrying out a planned burn is a complex and difficult process so DEPI takes precautions to ensure the safety of local communities, firefighters and the environment. DEPI understands that planned burns can cause some anxiety for people who live near a burn or who may worry when they see smoke.
Trained firefighters and other fire support staff conduct planned burns when the fire danger is low, the weather is expected to be stable for several days and all other conditions are suitable. Each burn has a plan that describes the conditions that must be met before a burn can go ahead. Once a burn has been completed, trained firefighters patrol the burn area for several days or weeks until a burn is declared safe.
What happens if a burn escapes?
Planned burning is inherently risky, but good planning, reliable weather information, people and equipment and well established back-up plans all help to minimise the risk.
However, unexpected or rapidly changing conditions can lead to burns spreading beyond control lines, even though DEPI has taken every step to keep the risks to a minimum. If this happens firefighters respond quickly to limit the damage.
If a burn spreads significantly DEPI will declare and manage the burn as a fire, keeping the community informed. DEPI will also investigate how and why the escape happened.
The Repair of Fences Damaged by Bushfire and Fire Control Line Rehabilitation policy states that the Victorian Government will pay the cost of asset restoration if fences are destroyed or damaged by planned burns on public land escaping onto private land.