Using fire at Reedy Creek Reserve

Friday 21 September, 2007

Reserve Manager Steve Heggie explains the fire management work at Reedy Creek Reserve.

Monitoring the controlled burn. Photo Steve Heggie.Monitoring the controlled burn. Photo Steve Heggie.

In 2004 Bush Heritage received a gift of 452 hectares of remnant vegetation and coastal habitats in one of Queensland’s prime coastal zones.

The gift was an environmental offset for the environmentally sustainable residential development ‘Sunrise at 1770’. The residents contribute financially to support the protection of the adjacent conservation area, Reedy Creek Reserve.

Managing land adjacent to such a development creates unique management issues, particularly when it comes to ecological burning. Burning, however, continues to be a major focus of the work program at Reedy Creek Reserve.

Over this summer wet season, which never really arrived, we maintained and widened the firebreaks in preparation for the autumn burns we were to undertake as part of the Reedy Creek fire management strategy. This was necessary for our own safety and also to increase our efficiency when using fire as a management tool.

Monitoring the controlled burn. Photo Steve Heggie.Monitoring the controlled burn. Photo Steve Heggie.

All Bush Heritage reserve staff who work with fire are now equipped with Australian Standard Proban Personal Protection Equipment, designed to offer a high level of protection from radiant heat and flames.

The onset of the calmer autumn weather saw our burning program begin but, as a result of the poor wet season, conditions were much drier and more challenging than normal.

Our fire management has two objectives. One is to protect life and property in the Sunrise at 1770 residential area by reducing the overall fuel loads on the common lands. Our second aim is to create a mosaic of burnt and unburnt areas on the reserve to mimic the natural order of fire and enhance the health of the local vegetation communities.

This means that patches of some robust vegetation communities are burnt as regularly as every two years. Other vegetation communities will need at least ten years between burns. Ensuring that the fire remains within control lines, and reassuring anxious neighbours, creates a very challenging management scenario for Bush Heritage staff who use fire as a land-management tool on the urban fringe.

Once the burns are complete we map the blackened areas using Geographic Positioning System equipment, and the data are added to the Geographic Information System database to produce detailed digital maps of the reserve’s fire history. These maps guide the selection of the sites for following years’ burns.

Now we are heading into winter, the traditional period of high fire danger, well prepared.

Sunrise at 1770 has just won the Urban Development Institute of Australia award for best sustainable development in Queensland. It's now in the running for the national title.

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