Melbourne bushfire preparedness

The Melbourne Fire and Emergency Program (MFEP) aims to reduce risk to communities, assets and the environment from fire and other emergencies on public land in and around Melbourne’s urban interface.

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Why is bushfire preparedness important in Melbourne?

Where bushland meets high population densities in and around Melbourne, there is a higher risk of bushfire.

Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian landscape and cannot be eliminated. However, effective planning and preparation can help reduce the size, intensity and negative effects of future bushfires. This lessens their impact on our communities, the things we care about and on the environment. It also helps support plants and animals that need fire for their survival.

We aim to protect:

  • Human life
  • Property
  • Assets, utilities and infrastructure
  • Flora and fauna biodiversity and habitat (that can be severely reduced when a major bushfire happens)
  • Water catchments, courses and bodies
  • Cultural and historic heritage
  • Businesses, tourism, industries and recreation.

 

What is Forest Fire Management Victoria and the Joint Fuel Management Program?

Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic) includes staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria, VicForests and Melbourne Water.

FFMVic works to minimise the impact of major bushfires on human life, communities, infrastructure, industries, the economy and the environment. For more information visit the FFMVic website.

FFMVic and Country Fire Authority (CFA) work together on the Joint Fuel Management Program (JFMP) - a state-wide program that manages fuel on public and private land over the next three years.

MFEP’s annual slashing program, vegetation mulching and planned burn preparation are all included in the JFMP.

Reducing bushfire risk, like any land management activity, is a complex balancing act that doesn’t happen in isolation. To get the right balance between bushfire risk reduction, environmental health, community wellbeing, recreation, business, and industry, we must all work together.

To find out more about how state, regional and local agencies, government and communities are working together to better understand and reduce the impact of bushfires, visit the Safer Together website.

 

How do our Parks prepare for fire?

Parks Victoria manages a lot of the public land in and around Melbourne and therefore has an important role to play in reducing bushfire risk. We deliver fire prevention activities across greater Melbourne from the Mornington Peninsula to the Dandenong Ranges, Lower Yarra Valley and west to Melbourne's grassland reserves and the Werribee River.

We prepare for bushfire by:

 

All of these activities are planned to suit the local area and minimise any impact on environmental, cultural heritage and social values.

  • What types of plants or animals are in the area?
  • Are there any habitats that need protecting?
  • What does the landscape look like? What is the topography like?
  • What is the weather like in the area?
  • What is the history of fire in the area?
  • What does our modelling say about the bushfire risk?
  • Is there any known or possible cultural heritage that needs protecting?

 

Weed and pest animal control is carried out after planned burning and vegetation mulching.

We undertake this work as part of FFMVic and many of these activities are included in the JFMP.

 

Fuel breaks and grass slashing

Fuel breaks are a gap in available fuel (for example grass, leaves, shrubs, twigs and bark) that can burn in a fire and tend to be 6 - 20 m wide. Fuel breaks are sometimes referred to as Strategic Fuel Breaks and are up to 40m wide. 

We build and maintain fuel breaks across Melbourne, with many of them along the boundary of public and private property.

A fuel break alone won’t stop a fire, but they can help to:

  • Reduce the potential for a bushfire to start, develop or spread
  • Providing access for vehicles and machinery
  • Control fires. For example, we can quickly use a fuel break to back-burn ahead of an approaching bushfire or as a boundary to a planned burn.

 

Grass slashing

When grass in parks throughout Melbourne starts to dry out, our annual fuel break slashing program is ready to begin.

With over 1000 kilometres of fuel breaks across Melbourne, we need to carefully time our annual slashing to get the best bushfire risk reduction outcome. Grass is not slashed along fuel breaks based on its height, but on its dryness, or ‘curing’. Usually, grass is dry enough in late spring or early summer.

Slashing occurs once a year after spring growth when grass has nearly dried out. Sometimes a second cut is required in years when there is a lot of rain and growth rates are high. Heavy rain in spring may also delay the start of slashing, because the ground is too wet and the machinery cannot access the area safely.

To see where fuel breaks are slashed, visit the FFMVic JFMP.

 

Slashing schedule 2022/23

Last updated on 3 February 2023. 

This schedule is weather dependent and subject to change. Due to wetter than average weather this year, some areas may need to be delayed. If the ground is too wet or soft the machinery won't be able to access the area safely and could damage the ground. 

Tractor bogged while slashing grass at Lysterfield Park
Lysterfield Park 20 December 2022 - example of issues with completing grass slashing due to ongoing soft ground.

 

South Eastern Melbourne

  • Arthurs Seat State Park - completed
  • Back Beaches of Rye, Blairgowrie, Sorrento and Portsea - completed
  • Bald Hill Nature Conservation Reserve - early to mid January
  • Coolart Historic Reserve - mid January 
  • Devilbend Reservoir, Buckleys Nature Conservation Reserve and Tubbarubba Reserve - early to mid January 
  • Flinders area - late January
  • Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve - early January
  • Greens Bush - mid to late January
  • Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve - late January 
  • Mornington Peninsula National Park - late January 
  • Point Nepean National Park - completed
  • The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve - completed
  • Western Port area, including Tyabb and Warneet - completed

 

Cardinia Sandbelt 

  • Braeside Park - mid January 
  • Cardinia Creek Parklands - completed
  • Lysterfield Park - mid January 
  • Selby Conservation Reserve - mid to late December 

 

Dandenong Ranges, Yarra Ranges

  • Bunyip State Park & Kurth Kiln Regional Park - early January
  • Dandenong Ranges National Park, Olinda, Mt Evelyn and Silvan - mid to late December
  • Dandenong Ranges National Park, Ferntree Gully and Ferny Creek - early to mid January 
  • Dandenong Ranges National Park, Sherbrooke - completed
  • Dandenong Ranges National Park, Western Face and Montrose - early to mid December
  • Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve - mid to late January
  • Warramate Nature Conservation Reserve and the Yarra Ranges - early to mid January
  • Wright Forest Bushland Reserve - early to mid December

 

North Eastern Melbourne 

  • Dandenong Valley Parklands - completed
  • Kinglake - completed
  • Mullum Mullum - completed
  • Plenty Gorge Parklands - completed
  • Warrandyte State Park - completed
  • Yarra Valley Parklands, including Lower Yarra, Gresswell, Yarra Flats, and Yarra Bend - completed
 

Western Melbourne 

  • Altona Nature Conservation Reserve - completed
  • Banchory Grove Grassland Nature Conservation Reserve - completed
  • Derrimutt Grasslands - completed
  • Laverton Nature Conservation Reserve -completed
  • Lower Maribyrnong Riverland - completed
  • Maribyrnong Valley Parklands - completed
  • Mount Cottrell Nature Conservation Reserve - completed
  • Mount Derrimut Nature Conservation Reserve - completed
  • Point Cook Coastal Park - completed
  • Ravenhall Nature Conservation Reserve - completed
  • Werribee River Park - completed 
 
Tractor grass slashing near houses

 

Planned burning

A planned burn is the controlled use of fire under carefully managed conditions to reduce finer fuels such as dead wood, leaf litter and bark.

Planned burning is a key part of FFMVic's bushfire risk strategy to protect communities, property and the environment.

As well as reducing the risk posed by damaging bushfires, planned burns are carried out to help regenerate heathlands and grasslands, protect and strengthen ecological systems, and to help manage weeds, pests and diseases.

FFMVic is also committed to reinvigorating Traditional Owner-led cultural land and fire management practices.

See if there are any planned burns near you.

 

Vegetation mulching

Mulching is a mechanical or ‘non-burn’ fuel treatment that can be used instead of, or in conjunction with planned burning. It breaks down or rearranges fire fuels (such as shrubs and woody weeds) which reduces the risk of bushfires. A range of machines can be used to perform this task depending on the landscape, sensitivity of the plant life on the ground, or the cultural heritage of the area.

There are multiple reasons we use mulching (as opposed to planned burning) across Melbourne, these include: 

  • Vegetation type 
    Some vegetation may not be suitable for planned burning. Burning might also encourage an influx of invasive species in some areas, preventing indigenous plants from being able to grow back.  
  • Complexity of burn delivery
    Difficult terrain, closeness to houses and other infrastructure, and significant negative impacts to community, industry, or the environment are sometimes so complex that planned burning is not effective or safe to deliver.  
  • Weather conditions and timing 
    Planned burning requires a very specific set of weather conditions to be safe and effective. If weather conditions are consistently unfavourable for an area, it may remain untreated for many years. Depending on the area, mulching may be an alternative.  

 

Ecological impacts

In certain environments, mulching has the ability to manage and reduce the spread of weeds and invasive native species. By practicing mulching, other species are given the opportunity to regenerate as they are no longer dominated by the rapid growth of weeds. Research into the ecological impacts of mulching is ongoing. 

Example of mulching in Waterfall Gully in Arthurs Seat State Park:

Waterfall Gully before mulching Waterfall Gully during mulching Waterfall Gully after mulching

Photos from left to right: before mulching in 2014 (thick mid-storey vegetation, high fire risk), during mulching in 2014 (removal of low and mid storey shrubs and woody weeds. Can look confronting), after mulching in 2016 (regrowth of lower storey native grasses, much lower fire risk).

 

Fire and emergency access roads

Safe, fast and effective access is important for bringing a bushfire under control as quickly as possible.

For bushfire management, we create and manage different types of roads, depending on which type of firefighting vehicle and/or machinery can access that road.

 

Activities for the 2022-23 financial year

All of the Melbourne Fire and Emergency Program activities happening in the 2022-23 financial year are detailed by park area below. 

If you would like to receive an email notification when fire preparedness work is happening in your park, let us know at info@parks.vic.gov.au

Bunyip State Park

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the Bunyip State Park combined program flyer 2022-2023.

Craigieburn Grassland Nature Conservation Reserve

  • Oherns Road North planned burning preparation 

Dandenong Ranges National Park

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the DRNP combined program flyer 2022-2023.

Frankston Nature Conservation Reserve 

Holden Flora Reserve 

Kinglake National Park 

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the Kinglake combined program flyer 2022-2023.

Lysterfield Park 

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the Lysterfield Park combined program flyer 2022-2023.

Plenty Gorge Parklands

The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve 

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve combined program flyer 2022-2023.

Warramate Hills Nature Conservation Reserve

Warrandyte – Kinglake Nature Conservation Reserve

  • Happy Valley Track track resurfacing and improvement 

Warrandyte State Park

Western Grasslands Nature Conservation Reserve 

  • Little Raven East fuel break creation 
  • Truginina - St Clares fuel break creation
  • Quandong - Ripleys Road fuel break creation 

Woodlands Historic Park 

For a summary of bushfire risk reduction works undertaken by DELWP, CFA and Parks Victoria, view the Woodlands Historic Park combined program flyer 2022-2023.

 

 

 
 
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