What is bushfire risk?

Bushfire risk is the likelihood of a fire starting, spreading and impacting on people, property and the environment – the things we care about most.

Victoria is particularly susceptible to large, intense bushfires which can spread up to 30 km or more across landscapes. This is due to Victoria's terrain, naturally flammable vegetation and frequent exposure to hot, dry, windy weather.

Factors which affect bushfire risk include the type and condition of fuels, weather, topography, the location of people and assets, as well as our ability to prevent fires from igniting and suppress them once they have started. Reducing the impacts of bushfires is challenging because we don't know exactly when and where they will occur.

However, we can model how bushfires spread in the landscape with simulation software, Phoenix RapidFire, developed specifically for Victoria. Phoenix RapidFire uses information about weather, topography, vegetation and fire history, to simulate and predict the spread and impact of bushfires and help us understand bushfire behaviour – including flame height, ember density, spotting distance, convection column strength and intensity.

Using these simulations we can understand how bushfires are likely to behave, and how assets and values might be impacted by bushfires.

Image of firefighters at sunset by Paul Hitch

© Paul Hitch

Managing fuel loads in both remote places and close to towns

For fuel management on public land, the government will set a statewide target to maintain bushfire risk at, or below, 70 per cent of Victoria’s maximum bushfire risk. Based on the current assessment of risk, this will involve treating approximately 200,00 hectares per year. Where and how much land needs to be treated to keep bushfire risk at or below 70% will vary each year based on fire history, fuel loads and climate.

Under our integrated, risk-based approach, fuel management such as planned burning will be conducted in all parts of the landscape – around towns and assets and in the back country.

Modelling shows that we can significantly reduce risk through fuel management in remote areas. Knowing where fires are likely to start means we can reduce fuel loads and stop small fires from building momentum and spreading. This stops them from becoming major bushfires and gives our fire agencies a greater opportunity to control them before they affect our communities.

Risk beyond life and property - other assets and values

It is important to understand the impacts of bushfires to not only life and property, but to infrastructure, the environment, businesses and communities. Many people and industries – including asthma sufferers, grape growers and bee keepers – and many native plants and animals are vulnerable to bushfires and can be affected by planned burning.

We are developing ways to measure the costs and benefits of different bushfire risk reduction strategies on the things we value – both how effective they are at reducing risk and their impacts.

This includes impacts on lives, property, critical and community infrastructure, businesses, cultural heritage, ecological resilience, biodiversity including threatened species, and ecosystem services, such as water. Understanding these impacts is important to ensure our bushfire management actions keep Victorians safe without creating unnecessary impacts on the things we value most.

Beyond fuel management

No single strategy or action alone can manage bushfire risk. We must develop a multifaceted approach, using all the activities available to us. Fuel management is just one strategy for reducing bushfire risk.

Planned burning is a key part of fuel management, but it also includes:

  • Slashing and mowing
  • Creating fuel breaks around towns and assets
  • Maintaining infrastructure like fire dams and lookout towers in our forests and parks

Beyond fuel management, our fire management activities include:

  • Preparing and positioning firefighters and aircraft across Victoria for rapid response to bushfires when they start
  • Building standards for new housing
  • Developing neighbourhood shelters
  • Issuing community warnings
  • Coordinating evacuations

Our land and fire agencies will work in partnership with local communities through these initiatives to best reduce risk in a particular region.

Fuel management rings

Page last updated: 22/09/23