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Question and Answer Tracking Details

8659 - HAZARD REDUCTION BURNS

Greenwich, Alex to the Minister for Police, and Minister for Emergency Services
  1. What changes have been made to hazard reduction burns since LA Q3197?
  2. What strategies have been developed from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) work with the Office of Environment and Heritage, Environment Protection Authority and Ministry of Health on longer term smoke management strategies?
  3. What changes have been made to the community notification process to help prevent health impacts?
  4. What further action has been taken to ensure that vulnerable people with respiratory conditions such as asthma do not suffer from smoke impacts?
  5. What assessment has the Government made of research into the efficacy of hazard reduction burns on bushfire frequency and intensity?
  6. What assessment has the Government made of research into the impact of climate change and increasing catastrophic weather events on bushfire frequency and intensity?
  7. What assessment has the Government made of research into the impact of hazard reduction burn escapes?
  8. Is it true that most bushfires start around houses?
    1. What strategies does the Government use to focus hazard reduction burns around housing adjacent to forests?
  9. What assessment has the Government made about the timing of hazard reduction burns to limit impacts on large numbers of people?
  10. What options that don't involve burning has the Government considered to reduce bushfire hazards in areas adjacent to greater Sydney?
  11. What further action will the Government take to prevent hazard reduction burn impacts?
Answer -

I am advised:

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) now undertakes smoke plume modelling for the majority of hazard reduction burns and shares the results routinely with the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health. The NSW RFS is also a member of an intergovernmental committee stemming from the Government's Clean Air Strategy, which is working to develop and implement a national fire behaviour and smoke prediction modelling system.

A new interagency smoke communications protocol has been developed by working groups under the Clean Air Strategy setting out clear responsibilities and agreed messaging in relation to likely smoke impacts on the community. Further enhancements to the Fires Near Me App will also allow more targeted messages to people in affected areas.

The NSW RFS continually assesses and contributes to research regarding the efficacy of hazard reduction burns on bush fire intensity and frequency. Evidence to date demonstrates that by reducing the fuel load, it is possible to reduce the impact of bush and grass fires on assets and improve chances of suppressing a fire. The NSW RFS is also active on the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) Climate Change group.

In response to recent research and inquiries into the impact of hazard reduction burn escapes, the NSW RFS is developing a new risk assessment process for undertaking hazard reduction burns in New South Wales that considers the likelihood and consequence of burn escape and smoke impacts.

Ninety per cent of fires in New South Wales are caused by human actions and this is particularly high in urban areas with a substantial amount of retained vegetation. Local Bush Fire Management Committees across New South Wales identify assets at risk in specific areas and set out plans for mitigation works.

Most hazard reduction activities traditionally take place in autumn and recent conditions have suited the continuance of this work. These activities focus on the areas of greatest risk. To assist this work and as part of the Government's response to the Wambelong fire inquiries, the NSW RFS has increased the number of State Mitigation Crews, greatly increasing the amount of mid-week burning that can be done. Recent research shows hazard reduction by burning has a substantially better cost benefit return compared to other forms of hazard reduction.

The highest priority is given to the protection of people and property and the Government continually examines new methods of fuel reduction and community resilience.

Question asked on 7 June 2018 (session 56-1) and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 189
Answer received on 12 July 2018 and printed in Questions & Answers Paper No. 193