Firescape is a pilot CFA program which aims to facilitate planned ecological burning on private land.
The program comprises two community workshops and a demonstration burn, leading to collaborative development of a long term ecological burn program to benefit our local natural environment.
Working in partnership with the Christmas Hills Fire Brigade, Bend of Islands Conservation Association, Round the Bend Co-op, Nillumbik Shire Council, Melbourne Water and Parks Victoria, two community workshops were held in 2014. The first workshop covered fire ecology, fire risk and behaviour, fuel hazard assessment, and an introduction to preparing a property burn plan. It also included brief presentations from local groups and agencies, before outlining the local burn history and tolerable fire intervals (TFIs) for our local vegetation. The workshop culminated in a call for expressions of interest from landholders wanting their properties to be considered for a burn.
CFA, MW and DEPI representatives then assessed the 13 candidate properties for suitability for inclusion in the long term burn program, as well as for hosting the demonstration burn. Properties with Grassy Dry Forest above the maximum TFI (50 years) were the priority.
The second workshop was held at the property selected for the demonstration burn and covered what is involved in planning a burn on a property. Participants learned about the landholder’s primary objective to stimulate regeneration of grasses to provide more habitat for the Common Dunnart, as well as protection of values such as trees and a registered aboriginal artefact scatter. They also learned about control lines, testing the fuel, and the resources required to safely conduct the burn.
The demonstration burn was conducted on a private bush property in Christmas Hills in April 2015 to illustrate to community members what is involved in conducting a burn, as the basis for developing a longer term community ecological burn program plan. The burn site was approximately 50m x 25m in size, bounded on one side by a road. Prior to the planned burn date, Christmas Hills Fire Brigade volunteers prepared rake hoe control lines around the remaining three sides of the burn site, and around trees to be protected. On the day of the burn, around 20 brigade volunteers with the brigade’s two trucks and 4WD slip on, under the supervision of a CFA-provided burn controller, lit up at about 2:40pm.
Around 15 onlookers watched from the opposite side of the road, with the process explained to them by Parks Victoria and Christmas Hills Landcare representatives. By about 4pm blacking out of the perimeter was undertaken, leaving the burn interior to burn out naturally.
The primary ecological objective for the burn was to stimulate regeneration of grasses to provide more habitat for the Common Dunnart, so following the burn a herbivore exclusion fence was installed to create three different plots to monitor - burnt-unfenced, burnt-fenced, and unburnt-fenced. In addition 32 concrete pavers were installed as artificial dunnart habitat, and photopoint monitoring sites have been established.
Videos of the burn have been shared on the CHLG and CHFB Facebook pages, and the CHLG intends to provide monitoring updates on its website.