Fire Wise

Protecting Communities and Biodiversity Through Native Planting

  • YEAR: 2023
  • STATE: New South Wales/South Australia/Victoria
  • FOCUS AREAS: SDG 15: Life on Land

Fire Wise sparks change by planting native species strategically, reducing bushfire risks and fostering local biodiversity. With a mission to engage communities in best-practice bushfire mitigation, it ensures a safer and ecologically vibrant future. Rooted in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales, Fire Wise acts as a catalyst for local action, promoting biodiversity and resilience.

Environmental Challenge

 

How Vegetation Holds the Key to Bushfire Protection?

Bushfire science has been extensively studied for decades, revealing a wealth of knowledge. However, this is a complex topic because fire behaves differently based on long-term and daily weather conditions, terrain and the physical and chemical characteristics of flammable materials. 

One prevalent myth suggests that clearing vegetation such as trees and medium-sized shrubs is the best way to slow down the speed of a bushfire. Surprisingly, the opposite is true. A moderately dense canopy of vegetation provides shade to the ground, preserving moisture at ground level. Moreover, it acts as a barrier, reducing local wind speed and strategically deflecting embers while blocking radiant heat from assets.

In contrast, open grasslands are more susceptible to fueling fires. Fine fuels in these areas are exposed to drying winds and direct sun, making them prone to carrying a fast, intense, and erratic fire, especially during windy conditions. Notably, grass fires can travel at three times the ground speed of forest fires.

Often, native vegetation is wrongly perceived as a threat in bushfires, leading to unnecessary clearing. This contributes to the loss of biodiversity and habitat, exacerbating the challenges we are already facing in terms of environmental preservation.

 

 

PROTECT OUR NATIVE SPECIES

 

 

Acacia melanoxylon, Fire Retardant Plant. Note: It’s essential to understand that no plant can be considered completely fireproof, and no fire mitigation strategy is fail-safe. In the event of a bushfire, your safety should be the utmost priority. Always follow official emergency safety advice provided by local authorities and fire services, as their guidance is crucial for your well-being.

 

Solution

 

Can Planting Native Vegetation Be the Key to Safer Communities and Biodiversity?

The Fire Wise project investigates, tests, and demonstrates that planting native vegetation can reduce bushfire risk whilst enhancing local biodiversity and habitat. In extreme conditions, no preparation guarantees success in mitigating bushfire danger. If we raise community expectations, people might delay evacuating and risk their lives.

Fire Wise aims to save lives in less than extreme fire conditions. Planting native species with proper spacing can prevent fires from climbing tall vegetation. Before fires, these plants create shade and keep the ground moist. During fires, they slow down the wind, absorb and deflect embers and potentially act as a barrier to radiant heat, benefiting local ecology all the while.

Fourteen community groups in Victoria, South Australia, and New South Wales are engaging their communities in hands-on learning activities. They are learning about plant species with low flammability, undertaking local seed collection and participating in revegetation projects. Educational materials are also being developed. 

The project objectives are to: 

  • Build and share knowledge on best practice bushfire mitigation by engaging local communities to participate in a raft of Fire Wise activities including local workshops, field days, seminars, nursery activities and planting days.  
  • Produce Fire Wise technical information in various formats, enhancing community awareness and boosting Fire Wise project adoption.
  • Expand local community nurseries and seed banks for the supply of indigenous Fire Wise plant species.
  • Establish on-ground plantations to demonstrate and test a variety of Fire Wise concepts.

 

Carpobrotus rosii. Note: It’s essential to understand that no plant can be considered completely fireproof, and no fire mitigation strategy is fail-safe. In the event of a bushfire, your safety should be the utmost priority. Always follow official emergency safety advice provided by local authorities and fire services, as their guidance is crucial for your well-being.

Environmental Impact

 

Can Local Action Save Biodiversity?

Communities are learning actively to combat biodiversity loss from excessive clearing during fire management. This helps preserve crucial native vegetation and habitats. Empowered communities are producing local plant stock and using Fire Wise species and methods for revegetation, boosting biodiversity outcomes.

Remember, no plant is entirely fireproof, and no fire strategy is fail-safe. In a bushfire, prioritise your safety and follow official emergency safety advice from local authorities. The Fire Wise project, received grant funding from the Australian government Preparing Australian Communities Local Stream.

 

Note: The plants shown on this page should only be seen as examples. Fire Wise plants are suitable for specific geographic areas. 

To learn more about Fire Wise concepts: 

 

 

Victoria

 

South Australia

 

New South Wales