Humans have always used fire: for warmth, for cooking, in agriculture, to manufacture and to manage the physical and natural environment. In Australia, our natural landscapes have evolved around fire; their ongoing health relies upon it.
Living with the prospect of fire across our landscapes in urban, peri urban, regional and rural communities is a reality but when uncontrolled it can cause death, injury and impact on property that leads to significant and broad reaching social, environmental and economic consequences. We already work hard to reduce the number of fires and their impacts, through initiatives such as the Safer Together program which aims to bring land and fire managers and Victorian communities together to minimise the risk of bushfire. But to strive for greater prevention, while meeting emerging challenges to the sustainability of the current fire management system, will require holistic fire management across all environments.
Preventing fires, and reducing the consequences when fires do occur has a flow on effect on the resourcing needed to manage the response to and recovery from fires. While this makes sense, many of the current controls still focus on reducing the impacts of fires rather than fire prevention.
Emerging challenges mean Victoria needs to rethink the approach to fire management. Increased population densities, urban sprawl, an increasingly diverse and ageing population and climate change require adaptation to get the best outcomes for everyone. A range of policy settings already exist across the landscape of fire. Victoria’s aim is to look at this holistically before, during and after fires. The eventual end state will be a Victorian Fire Management Strategy that is a future-looking document encompassing fire in all environs including, for example, bushfire, building fires and hazardous material fires, whether the cause is accidental, deliberate or by natural events such as lightning.
Case studies used in this paper highlight the diversity of fire types that impact Victoria, the consequences of these fires and the need to plan for fire across all environments. The impact and consequence of fire is significant in all aspects of Victorian life and Victoria needs to understand the future challenges fire will present to the community in metropolitan, regional and rural areas.