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Planning for Fire

Having a land management plan that accepts the importance of bushfires is crucial. Here Charmaine Sellings and Uncle Tiny are using maps to develop their fire management plan.

Perhaps the best way to plan for fire is to combine traditional, Aboriginal methods with Western science. In fact, Aboriginal people have long made fire an ally and even incorporated it into their customs, including artwork, stories and dance. When it comes to managing fire, they use fire to ‘fight’ the fire with the cool burn method which involves burning areas of the landscape in a mosaic-like pattern. However, in many parts of Australia, cool burns are not possible due to the urbanisation of the landscape where houses, roads and highways break up the landscape.  

Since colonisation, Western scientists have tried to manage the landscape differently. They use methods that include technologies such as helicopter water bombing, weather forecasting via GPS and firefighting equipment. Fortunately, some of these methods are effective in fighting bushfires, but they are less effective in preventing fire in the first place. For this reason, a combination of cool burning with Western technologies may be the best answer to planning for Australia’s fires.  

“If we start looking after the land with fire the right way today, then for generations to come we may see beautiful big trees again. We might see the land clean and animals coming back. We might see diversity of plants and healthy ecosystems. But that won’t come without a lot of hard work and open-mindedness to revive this knowledge system and work together to look after our country”
Victor Steffensen. 

Activities - Planning for Fire

1. Fire plan research

Use this guide to assist you in researching about fire in your local area.

2. Using the information collected, discuss the following inquiry questions:

  • Is there a high risk of fire in your area? If so, where is it likely to occur? 
  • What steps will you take to reduce the fire risk?  
  • Will cool burning be used? At what time of year and where? 
  • What roads and access will be used in a fire emergency? Where is the nearest water access located? 
  • How will you make sure everyone in the community is aware of and approves of this plan? 
  • How will you build positive relationships in the community throughout the planning stage to ensure people work together in a fire emergency? 

3. Make a map

Maps are essential tools for developing effective fire management plans if they include up-to-date features of the land. Use Google Earth to zoom in on your school or town area and print this on A3 paper or larger.  
  • Either draw directly onto this or overlay tracing paper to draw on details from the field work such as buildings, key locations, bushland, main roads.  
  • Label the map with a title, legend, orientation and an accurate scale.  
  • Either by walking around or using Google Earth again, focus on your school more closely. Where are the buildings, fences, power lines, roads and trails/paths, gates (are they locked/unlocked?), and all water sources. Identify and label your school’s emergency assembly point. 

4. Make a plan

Use the information gathered in Activities 1-3 to develop a Fire Management Plan (follow link for an example) specific to your school or area. Work together as a class to write a plan that utilises your detailed map, field work and responses to the inquiry questions. 
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