The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages approximately 13 million hectares of parks and forests (around 8% the state) which have diverse natural, cultural, social and economic values.
Managing fire on the parks and forests estate is a key part of QPWS’ role as a land manager.
QPWS fire management objectives:
- Protect the public and their communities (people and their homes).
- Protect critical infrastructure and assets, from the adverse impacts of fire (key economic infrastructure).
- Maintain and restore natural values on the protected area and forest estate.
- Maintain cultural values and traditional fire practices on the protected area and forest estate.
- Protect social and economic values of the protected area and forest estate and its neighbours.
- Strengthen engagement through Bushfire Management Groups, and with neighbours, to drive a cross-tenure approach to fire management.
- Improving the organisations capability, knowledge and capacity in fire management.
For QPWS, public safety is the highest consideration in all fire management activities.
Fire is a natural part of the environment and is used with great skill and knowledge by QPWS rangers and management partners to benefit biodiversity, fire dependent ecosystems and species in Queensland’s parks and forests and to reduce the potential threats and negative impacts from bushfire.
By maintaining a well-trained, prepared, resourced and responsive workforce, QPWS is able to react quickly to bushfire events, often working alongside the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) and other partner agencies, First Nations people and neighbours.
QPWS continuously enhances its capacity and capability to manage fire across the four stages of bushfire management—prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Fire strategies are developed for each park or forest to provide the on-ground direction for managing fire consistent with the QPWS fire management objectives.
QPWS Bioregional Planned Burn Guidelines provide the ecological basis for fire management to guide on-ground fire management activities and fire regimes at the regional ecosystem level.
Through its ongoing program of proactive fire management and risk mitigation, QPWS is building resilience within the landscape to help reduce the adverse impacts of large-scale, severe bushfires that are expected to become more common as a result of a changing climate.
A collaborative approach to fire management
QPWS is the lead agency for fire management on Queensland’s parks and forests. As land managers, QPWS’ role is to:
- implement conservation programs to maintain or enhance natural and cultural values
- maintain an extensive network of fire lines and access
- reduce fuels within Protection and Wildfire Mitigation Zones to reduce bushfire risk
- ensure staff are trained and well-equipped to respond to bushfires
- provide up-to-date information on park closures, fire bans and smoke impacts
- maintain safe park facilities and infrastructure for the public to enjoy.
Managing Queensland's bushfire risk is a shared responsibility and QPWS places a very high emphasis on collaboration. Across the state, QPWS works in conjunction with QFES, other state land management agencies, First Nations groups, neighbours and lessees to encourage a landscape-scale approach to fire management.
QFES is the lead agency for fire management in Queensland for the protection of life and property. QPWS works with QFES’ Bushfire Management Groups to identify and treat bushfire risk which forms part of the annual QFES’ Operation Cool Burn.
QPWS also works closely with neighbours and adjacent communities in the management of fire in line with its Good Neighbour Policy.
The welfare of QPWS staff, neighbours, other land management agencies and emergency response personnel who attend a fire ground under the control of QPWS, are recorded and managed using an electronic T-Card.
The QldParks T-Card application is publicly available and can be downloaded at the App or Google Play Stores.
Working with First Nations People
Looking after Country, including implementing burning practices is an important part of First Nations’ lore and culture. Fire has been integral to living with the landscape and caring for Country in accordance with expert knowledge and systems developed over thousands of generations.
QPWS works collaboratively with First Nations people across Queensland on park management, including formal joint management of more than 20% of the protected areas across the state. These partnerships enable QPWS rangers to learn from Traditional Owner knowledge and continually adapt and improve fire management practices.
The department recognises the responsibility, knowledge and skill of First Nations people in fire management and the need to increase their involvement in management of the land. QPWS works in partnership with many First Nations groups to manage fire across Queensland. This includes:
- ensuring that joint management arrangements on Cape York Peninsula and Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) are inclusive of traditional burning practices and all aspects of fire management occur as a partnership
- supporting cultural burning practices by various First Nations ranger groups including the Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Ranger Program
- undertaking routine consultation in the development of fire strategies and annual planned burn programs across the protected area and forest estate
- developing Township Fire Management Strategies for vulnerable communities on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) in collaboration with the Quandamooka people.
QPWS encourages the involvement of First Nations people in fire management and has established protocols to address appropriate natural and cultural heritage conservation and management outcomes on jointly managed QPWS and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander land estate.
In Queensland, bushfires can occur at any time of the year and bushfire risk varies across the state, from season to season and from year to year. Generally, bushfires tend to be more frequent and can be more severe from late winter to early summer. Fire severity depends on the conditions at the time with weather, overall dryness (or drought factor) and fuel loads all contributing factors.
During periods of severe or higher fire danger, parks and forests may be closed in the interest of public safety and to minimise the risk of additional fire in the landscape.
QPWS actively works to reduce the risk and severity of bushfires on parks and forests through careful planning, implementation and monitoring of fire management activity. Developing and maintaining a capable, well-resourced and responsive workforce in accordance with contemporary standards and new learnings, enables rangers to continually adapt bushfire mitigation activities to changing conditions.
Hazard reduction is a key component of bushfire prevention. It involves reducing fuel loads ahead of bushfire season and is essential for minimising the risk of bushfires on Queensland’s parks and forests.
Hazard reduction techniques can involve a range of contemporary and traditional methods depending on the landscape and may include: planned burns, mechanical treatments, chemical treatments.
Hazard reduction planned burns
Planned burning for hazard reduction is one method used by QPWS to reduce bushfire risk.
Under carefully planned conditions, rangers use fire to directly reduce available fuel loads. This helps reduce the intensity, scale and potential spread of bushfires when they occur and allows firefighters to suppress and contain bushfires in the right weather conditions.
Conservation planned burns
Planned burning for conservation has many benefits including maintaining ecosystems and ecological processes, conserving native flora and fauna and habitat essential for their survival and protecting or maintaining cultural places. Well planned fire is an important tool for weed control, maximising biodiversity and promoting the survival and recovery of endangered or vulnerable species.
The timing of conservation planned burns differs across the state depending on the objectives but they are generally conducted in mild weather when there is good moisture in the soil.
QPWS rangers use tactics that encourage low intensity fire resulting in a patchy or mosaic burn that maintains some areas of vegetation as refuge areas and retains key habitat features such as logs and trees with hollows. This minimises the impact on fire sensitive ecosystems and species and leaves refuge so native fauna can utilise newly available food resources in recently burnt ground.
When undertaking planned burns, QPWS takes all reasonable and timely steps to notify the community through direct notices, local media outlets and Park Alerts.
Safety messages for park neighbours and visitors
Living near parks and forests
Bushfires can happen anywhere. If you live near a national park or forest, be aware and prepared to protect yourself and your property by:
- having a bushfire survival kit that includes important documents, clothing, food and water, and evacuation plans
- tuning in to warnings through your local radio station or Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES)
- preparing your home and checking insurance coverage.
- subscribe to Park Alerts.
To learn more about bushfire safety, visit Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Visiting national parks and forests
Before you leave home:
- do some research into the place you’re visiting and plan as best as possible for the unexpected
- learn how to stay safe on our parks and forests
- subscribe to Park Alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.
When visiting national parks and forests, ensure you have:
- an evacuation plan
- first aid kit
- water and food
- protective clothing.
For more information on preparing your Get Ready plan visit Get Ready Queensland.
The Burning Question documentary
Find out more about the strategies and practices used in bushfire mitigation in Queensland. Hear from the experts about the weather and climate factors that govern mitigation methods, traditional and emerging burning practices and what Queenslanders can do to combat bushfire risk on their own land.
Indigenous Women in Fire Training Exchange
Rangers Alex and Evelyn spent 2 weeks sharing knowledge of cultural burning practices with Native Indian women in California at the first-ever Indigenous Women in Fire Training Exchange. Find out more about their amazing experience.