Bush fires have been a natural part of the landscape for many thousands of years. As communities have developed and properties and towns have been established, the risk of bush fires impacting on communities has increased.
Throughout NSW there are approximately 1.3 million properties on bush fire prone land. Firefighters rely on roads, trails and other tracks on public and private land to access the landscape to prevent, fight, manage and contain bush fires. It is critical to identify, build and maintain an effective network of accessible fire trails that suit the firefighting operations, in support of community protection, conducted across NSW.
Fire trails serve an important role in bush fire suppression and bush fire management across the landscape.
A strategic network of fire trails
Following changes in Legislation in July 2017, renewed works continue to be undertaken to identify and enhance the strategic network of fire trails.
The legislation defines strict safety, planning and maintenance requirements, so firefighters and land managers can safely manage and supress bush fires within an area.
The strategic network includes some of the existing fire trails. In some cases, work may be needed to bring these trails up to the new requirements.
In some areas where a need is identified by a Bush Fire Management Committee, new fire trails may be constructed. This may be on public land, or with the agreement of private landholders.
Fire trails identified as part of an area’s strategic fire trail network will be recorded in the area Fire Access and Fire Trail (FAFT) Plan.
Standards for fire trails
Standards have been developed to ensure fire trails meet the needs of firefighters. These standards define the criteria for the development and maintenance of fire trails for the protection of the community and its assets.
The Standards define requirements including trail width and clearances, drainage, signage, accessibility and other traits that impact on the performance of the fire trail and the safety of firefighters in the event of a fire. As an example, signage is installed on these fire trails so firefighters know the standard to which they’re constructed. This helps ensure firefighters can safely operate from trails and clearly identify access points and the limitations of each trail.
The Fire Trail Standards were gazetted on 1 December 2023.
Identified fire trails are also maintained and inspected regularly to ensure the standards are consistent throughout the year.
Application of these standards to identified fire trails is included in the Fire Trail Design Construction and Maintenance Manual.
The strategic fire trail network will be continually improved based on these standards.
Establishing local needs
Local Bush Fire Management Committees are responsible for identifying the needs for the fire trail network in their area.
Working with firefighters, land managers and other stakeholder agencies, a local Fire Access and Fire Trail (FAFT) plan is developed for each area and this is reviewed regularly. This identifies and records the location of the identified strategic network of access routes and fire trails.
Fire trails on private land
In some areas, the local Bush Fire Management Committee may identify the need for a fire trail on private property.
If a fire trail is identified on private land the Rural Fire Service will seek to enter into an agreement with the landholder to establish, maintain and access the fire trail.
How volunteers will be involved
The Bush Fire Management Committees, through their normal procedures regularly engage with local volunteers for insight into bush fire management in their areas.
Workshops are held in each area involving all stakeholders including local volunteers, land managers and other agencies.
How long will the process take?
The state-wide development of a strategic fire trail network will take some time.
A FAFT Plan has a 20-30 year ongoing planning horizon and an initial 5 year treatment horizon. A Treatment Register is prepared by each Bush Fire Management Committiee to identify and prioritise the works to be undertaken over each 5 year horizon, with works planned out in an Annual Works Program for implementation.
You can find out more about the identified strategic fire trail network by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
As local Fire Access and Fire Trail works are implemented in each area, a register of strategic fire trails that meet the Fire Trail Standards will be published. Click here to see the Commissioner’s Register of Fire Trails.