New South Wales is one of the most bush fire prone places on Earth. There is approximately 1.3 million properties on bush fire prone land in NSW.
While bush fires have been a natural part of the landscape for many thousands of years, the establishment of properties and towns has increased the risk of fires impacting on communities.
To assist with containing and managing fires across the landscape, firefighters need good access.
Fire trails are an important part of ensuring firefighters can access fires and safely contain them. They are also used to assist with management of bush fire risk across the landscape.
A strategic network of fire trails
Following a recommendation from the NSW Government, work is being undertaken to enhance the strategic network of fire trails.
This network will help to ensure fire trails meet strict safety requirements, so firefighters and land managers can be confident and work safely.
The network will include fire trails which already exist. In some cases, work may be needed to bring these trials up to safe standards.
In some areas where a need is identified, new fire trails may be constructed. This may be on public land, or with the agreement of private landholders.
New standards for fire trails
New standards have also been developed to ensure fire trails meet the needs of firefighters.
This includes width and height clearances, gradient and drainage. As an example, where a fire trail is identified as capable of carrying a large bush fire tanker, the fire trail must meet standards for the tanker to safely navigate the trail.
The Fire Trail Standards were gazetted on 8 September 2017.
Fire trails will also need to be maintained and inspected regularly.
Signage will also be installed on these fire trails so firefighters know the standard to which they’re constructed. This will help ensure firefighters can safely operate from trails and clearly identify access points and the limitations of each trail.
Over the coming years the network will be continually improved based on these standards.
Establishing local needs
Local Bush Fire Management Committees will be responsible for identifying the needs for the fire trail network in their area.
Working with firefighters, land managers and other agencies, a local Fire Access and Fire Trail (FAFT) plan will be developed. This will identify the location of the 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 the fire trail is identified on private land the NSW RFS will seek to enter into an agreement with the landholder to establish the fire trail.
How volunteers will be involved
The Bush Fire Management Committee, through its normal operating procedures will engage with local volunteers.
Workshops will be held in each area involving local volunteers, land managers and other agencies.
How long will the process take?
The statewide development of a strategic fire trail network will take some time, to ensure local input and knowledge in identifying what’s needed.
A treatment register will be prepared to identify and prioritise works to be undertaken.
You can find out more about the strategic fire trail network by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislation for the strategic fire trail network commenced on 1 July 2017. As local Fire Access and Fire Trail Plans are developed in each area, a register of strategic fire trails will be established. Monitor this site for further updates.