Updated: Jun 24
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service has advised that their planned hazard reduction burns of the bushland/urban interface will begin on Tuesday 20 June, if weather conditions remain suitable – so it's time to dust off those N95 masks!
Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, with the assistance of Qld Fire and Emergency Services and Moreton Bay Regional Council, are conducting a large hazard reduction burn on Bribie Island from Tuesday 20 June. The burn is expected to go for two to three days and aims to reduce the risk and severity of a wildfire occurring near residential areas.
Bribie residents received notice in the mail a few months ago advising of upcoming planned burns, and you might have seen the illuminated advisory sign as you've driven on to the Bribie Bridge. Authorities use planned burns not only to achieve hazard reduction and to maintain healthy ecosystems, but agencies also test emergency response and management procedures too. As residents of a fire prone landscape, we'd recommend signing up to Moreton Alert (see below) and if you reside in proximity of the National Park, revise your bushfire plan. USEFUL RESOURCES Scheduled Dates - Tuesday June 20th-22nd 2023
Bureau of Meteorology - Fire Weather Forecast
Moreton Alert - sign up for alerts sent straight to your phone Emergency - Call 000 Woorim QFES Info Stall (opposite Woorim SLSC) - Tue 20th / Wed 21st / Thu 23rd Bribie Shopping Centre QFES Info Stall - Tue 20th / Wed 21st / Thu 23rd
A STORY OF SAND AND FIRE This island and its people have always lived with fire. Fire has been used to manage the landscape for tens of thousands of years, but in the last hundred or two, the timing and intensity of fires has altered, and skewed the cycle out of equilibrium. The regular, cool mosaic-style burning regime used for thousands of years by indigenous custodians was replaced by a cycle of fire suppression and control, resulting in excess fuel loads building up through wet periods, and then exploding into extreme wildfires that have devastated Bribie's woodlands and wallum. These high intensity fires alter the island's resilience, wildlife carrying capacity and it's biodiversity. Fortunately we're entering a time period where land managers may have begun to heed the savage lessons of the post colonial era, and are looking further back in time to understand the critical role fire has played in maintaining a balanced environment. Fire management in the 21st century is a complex, cross agency operation that involves cooperation between landholders, authorities and traditional owners to ensure outcomes that both protect lives and property, and promote a healthy ecosystem. When you reflect on traditional cultural burning practices, those common goals of protection and maintaining a healthy ecosystem are foundational. Low intensity, cool patch burns that allow wildlife to seek safety, that burn at low intensity through the understory without affecting the canopy, are important drivers of habitat health and at the same time mitigate the risk posed to habitat, wildlife and people by extreme wildfire. The reintroduction of traditional cultural burning practices is in its early phases. Current fire management regimes remain mostly a balancing act between mitigating risk to lives and property, supporting a healthy, productive ecosystem and reflecting broad community expectations. Greater involvement of First Nations custodians in planning and operations will over time influence fire management culture and will not only improve outcomes from planned burning but also ensure the island's important cultural sites are properly protected.
Read more about Fire ecology here: https://www.fireandbiodiversity.org.au/images/publications/Living_with_fire_An_introduction_to_fire_ecology_16pp_2022_web.pdf
A DELICATE BALANCE The species mix and structure of Bribie's heathland and wallum vegetation is inherently prone to hot fires, and our coastal location adds local weather variability to the mix when considering the safest time to burn. A worst-case scenario for this landscape is for fuel loads to build up to levels that produce unmanageable, Catastrophic Fire as the island has seen in the not too distant past. A notable example is the 1994 fire, which jumped Pumicestone Passage from Beerburrum, burned its way south through the island's pine plantations and natural habitat, and onward to threaten the villages on both sides of the island. Woorim was cut off as the flames wiped out the woodland, and jumped 1st Ave, before continuing to the southern coast.
For the National Park, fires like this cause destruction of the underlying peat layer in the wetlands, effect root systems, trunks and woodland canopies and give wildlife nowhere to hide. The post-fire invasion of weeds and invasive native vegetation into the fire-ground has long-term negative consequences for the island's habitat.
The Nationally adopted Fire Danger ratings describe the potential level of danger should a bushfire start.
To mitigate that risk of these planned fires escaping containment lines and becoming wild fires, a QPWS spokesperson said this year's burns have been planned early in Winter, intentionally when the Fire Danger Rating is forecast to be Moderate, and the soil is still relatively moist. A helicopter will be employed to drop fire-starters, providing accuracy with good oversight for those doing the planning.
It's important however, that authorities also plan for the unexpected, as bushfire intensity can change and there is still a risk that these fires could escalate to Higher intensity. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Moreton Bay Regional Council and Queensland Fires and Emergency Services will be coordinating the burn. In cooperation with Healthy Land and Water's Qld Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, six members of the Kabi Kabi traditional owner group have been fire-trained, and will be joining this operation. We wish everyone a safe week.
The extension to the Bribie Island National Park known as "The BIEPA Block" (bounded by Cotterill, Goodwin and a First Ave) falls within this year's planned burn area. The adjacent roadside grassy verge creates a hotspot for kangaroo and wallaby traffic incidents throughout the year – BIEPA asks road users to be extra vigilant this week as wildlife will be on the move evading the fires. (Photo Darren Jew)
In early May, contractors increased the width of fire breaks and trails in the National Park in preparation for these burns. Residents who live adjacent the National Park along Protea Drive at Bongaree were caught off-guard by the works, and were so severely distressed by the loss of large trees they called police, who attended. While the Council notification sent to all residents on Bribie did make a general statement about upcoming works in prep for the burn, affected residents have criticised authorities for lack of proper consultation. BIEPA acknowledges the need for protections, but calls for a more respectful "good neighbour" policy from QPWS and council. (Photos Darren Jew, Deirdre Reynolds)
In August 2019 a hazard reduction burn on the north of the island jumped containment lines, and Bribie became an early signpost to what was ahead during Australia's worst fire season, the 2019/20 Black Summer. (ABC Photo)
The consequences of extreme and catastrophic wildfires are tragic for wildlife. (Courier Mail Photo)