ACT Health Directorate

The Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm property 'Miowera' BOP has been approved by the Emergency Services Agency and is reviewed annually prior to the commencement of each bushfire season. The next review is scheduled for September 2021.

The BOP covers all areas of fire protection on the land surrounding Miowera. These sections are:

  • Fuel management and timing (slashing, physical removal, mowing, grazing, and chemical treatment)
  • Access/Egress management (maintenance of access roadways)
  • Infrastructure (water supplies)
  • Firefighting equipment
  • Education and training
  • Auditing, monitoring and reporting, and
  • Response and standby.

The following controls have been implemented to lower the properties bushfire risk:

  • Maintain fuel loads at an acceptable level across the property
  • A robust recurrent program to remove noxious and environmental weeds is in place
  • All internal roadways are accessible to large firefighting equipment including the access bridge to the property being capable of accommodating an ACTRFS heavy tanker or a 15-tonne capacity
  • Periodic inspections are conducted to ensure primary roadway and egress routes are maintained and cleared at all times
  • Installation of two 80 000 litre tanks dedicated to fire suppression
  • Installation of a fire hydrant and booster
  • Sprinklers have also been installed throughout the facility, over and above normal construction requirements
  • The centre has a fire indicator panel that is connected and monitored at all times and will alert the fire agencies upon activation
  • A facility specific emergency management plan compliant with Australian Standard 3745:2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities is in place
  • There is a bushfire action plan for the facility and wider property. All services will cease and the facility will be pre-emptively evacuated on days of extreme or catastrophic fire danger, and
  • A Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) rating of 12.5 has been constructed to reflect the facility as a Special Purpose Facility by way of occupancy type. This BAL rating is over and above what is required.

Figure 45 - Image of firefighting water storage tanks at Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm

Figure 45 - Image of firefighting water storage tanks at Ngunnawal Bush Healing Farm

Canberra Health Services

Canberra Health Services (CHS) has a BOP in place for the Dhulwa Mental Health Facility and Gawanggal/Arcadia House. These are the only CHS sites required to have a plan under the Emergencies Act 2004. CHS takes proactive measures to mitigate the impact of bushfires to ensure the safety of staff, patients and visitors, and reports these measures quarterly to the ACT Rural Fire Service.

All risk mitigation actions identified in the CHS BOP for 2020-21 have been completed. Works undertaken during 2020-21 included:

  • review and upgrade of maintenance contracts to include regular activities to meet the BOP requirements (gutter cleans, fuel removal, pruning and weed management, and fire trail maintenance) at Dhulwa Mental Health Facility and Gawanggal/Arcadia House
  • upgraded fencing and fire breaks, and
  • significant fuel removal and clearing within the boundary line at Gawanggal/Arcadia House.

Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate

The Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate (CMTEDD) in consultation with ACTRFS has identified ArtsACT (Strathnairn Arts Association), Stromlo Forest Park, National Arboretum Canberra and the ACT Property Group rural leases (including the Williamsdale Solar Generating Facility)
as locations within the PBAs that are subject to bushfire risk management plans and management actions.

During 2020-21, the CMTEDD Bushfire Preparedness Framework, including the individual site Elevated Fire Danger Action Plans, were reviewed and updated prior to the bushfire season. The Framework and action plans provide overarching support and direction for CMTEDD’s bushfire risk management activities. The revised framework, action plans and BOPs were then reviewed by the ACTRFS, and the Commissioner approved the BOPs.

  • All the scheduled activities in the Stromlo Forest Park BOP have been completed. Stromlo Forest Park ensured that all staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities in accordance with the Emergency Management Plan.
  • National Arboretum Canberra has completed scheduled prevention activities under the BOP including fuel management, access management as well as infrastructure inspection, maintenance, and upgrades. National Arboretum Canberra has also completed equipment readiness inspections and maintenance. Onsite Fire Awareness Training and evacuation exercises were completed in addition to ongoing all staff awareness training.
  • ArtsACT and Strathnairn Arts Association are responsible for BOP functions at Strathnairn Arts precinct. Emergency preparedness activities were completed to ensure the facility is well prepared for a bushfire. Evacuation training for all onsite staff, fire warden trainings and bushfire information/preparation trainings were conducted. Buildings and grounds work activities were completed in accordance with the BOP.
  • ACT Property Group has a schedule for maintenance and bushfire preparedness activities including quarterly inspections that are implemented for all rural leases within the portfolio. In 2020-21, all activities and inspections were completed as scheduled.

Community Services Directorate

Within the Community Services Directorate (CSD), Housing ACT identified 2 219 properties located in the designated PBAs in accordance with information provided by the ESA. The identified properties were grouped into three categories to reflect the level of perceived risk and associated impacts on the tenants based on their individual circumstances. The categories also indicate the actions that Housing ACT undertakes to mitigate the risk to the individual tenancies.

  • Housing ACT identified 12 Category one properties that are in rural locations; one of these is not currently used. The residents of the 11 tenanted properties had information packs hand delivered or emailed with a bushfire survival plan and checklist as well as information on how to use these tools and where to get further assistance if required. These properties were inspected a minimum of five occasions during the 2020-21 bushfire season and, where required, remedial works were undertaken to ensure they remained bushfire ready and compliant.
  • A total of 160 dwellings were identified as Category two properties, including properties under head lease arrangements and group homes. These properties were issued with an information pack outlining the responsibilities of the head lease organisation and provided avenues to seek further advice or information if required.
  • Category three encompasses the remainder of Housing ACT properties that are within the bushfire prone areas and do not fall into category one or two. Housing ACT identified 2 047 properties in this category and provided those affected tenants with information during annual Client Service Visits. Housing ACT also offered help to any residents unable to undertake the recommended works, such as gutter cleaning or other yard works to reduce fire loads.

Cultural Facilities Corporation

The Cultural Facilities Corporation (CFC) manages three ACT Historic Places for which a BOP is required: Lanyon Homestead; Calthorpes’ House and Mugga-Mugga Cottage and Education Centre.

  • The ACT Historic Places BOP for Lanyon Homestead was updated in 2021 and forwarded to the Emergency Services Agency Commissioner for endorsement. To support the BOP, a Bushfire Action Plan with comprehensive procedures and checklists has been developed. It is implemented during the bushfire season each year.
  • The CFC provides emergency bushfire awareness training for ACT Historic Places staff and volunteer guides, in view of the bushfire risk to these properties as well as regular review of its incident procedures.

Education Directorate and Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate (Birrigai)

The Education Directorate (EDU) and Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate (TCCS) are jointly responsible for the Birrigai BOP, which was prepared by Australian Bushfire Consultants in 2018. The Birrigai BOP guides the ongoing activities undertaken across the site to maintain the buildings and surrounding grounds in order to mitigate the risk of fire, and to preserve access to established fire trails.
All reporting commitments for 2020-21 have been met and BOP recommendations completed.

  • In 2020-21, significant landscaping works were completed within the building envelope.
    This has reduced existing fuel loads, removed flammable shrubs and other fire-prone vegetation, and
    re-introduced fire-retardant native plants.
  • Capital works were undertaken on several of the built structures to address BOP recommendations including replacement of the non-compliant dining room skylight, removal of wooden lockers, and identifying additional areas of concern for ember entrapment.
  • Birrigai has introduced an annual grounds maintenance schedule which includes seasonal mowing and weed control plans, and the use of external contractors to control weeds as part of the broader land parcel management strategies.
  • Regular site inspections are conducted to locate and address fallen trees and branches.

Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate

This year, ACT Parks and Conservation Service (PCS) within the Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD) completed 94.4% of the actions required under the EPSDD BOP,
which covers all areas of fire protection including fuel management, access management, infrastructure, equipment purchase, training, auditing and monitoring, planning and research, education, response
and standby.

The EPSDD BOP is a yearly works program based on the activities identified in the Regional Fire Management Plans (RFMPs). Fuel management aims to reduce fire fuel loads to an acceptable level. Actions to achieve this fuel modification include slashing, prescribed burning, grazing, physical removal
and chemical treatment of vegetation as detailed in the table on the next page.

Table 91 - EPSDD BOP activities 2020-21

Treatment

Works delivered

Target achieved

Explanation

Slashing

4 273 hectares of slashing across 239 sites

100% complete

n/a

Prescribed Burning

1 707 hectares of burning across 22 individual burns

421 hectares of burning was not delivered

# Weather conditions were not suitable.

 

Grazing

4 505 hectares of grazing across 69 sites

100% Complete 

n/a

Physical removal

691 hectares across 28 sites

406 hectares was not delivered

# Weather conditions were not suitable

Chemical

119 hectares across 29 sites

One site of less than 1 hectare was not delivered

See note1

Access management

      1. Road maintenance

 

459 km completed

 

34 hectares not completed

# Weather conditions were not suitable

      1. Vegetation Management

8 sites covering 62 km completed.

53 hectares not completed

 

      1. Upgrading of fire trails and water crossings

Works not completed

6 sites not completed

 

Fire Infrastructure Development

11 projects completed

1 project not completed

See note1

Equipment

7 projects completed

1 project not completed

The supply of Fire Personal Protective Equipment and Software maintenance for GIS applications was prioritized

Training

69 activities completed (4 500 staff hours)

2 activities not completed

Two remaining activities were not completed because face to face training was not possible due to COVID-19.

Auditing and Monitoring

21 were completed

1 not completed

See note1

Planning and Research

53 activities were completed

8 activities are currently underway but not yet complete

See note1

Education

5 education activities completed

100 % complete

n/a

Note1 Activity not completed has been carried forward into the 21/22 BOP as part of a rolling program

The 2020-21 prescribed burning season was vastly different from the 2019-20 season. The spring program was hampered by high fuel moisture in all areas and weather conditions outside of the acceptable parameters. The heavy rain in August and October effectively stopped all spring prescribed burns.

In addition, COVID-19 restrictions meant that the large gatherings of staff required to undertake prescribed burning was not possible. A short window of favourable weather and fuel moisture presented itself in April 2021.

Figure 46 - Image of Prescribed burn Pipeline FB092 April 2020

Figure 46 - Image of Prescribed burn Pipeline FB092 April 2020

Case Study: Use of Smoke and Gaseous Monitoring Sensors

PCS is one of the first agencies in Australia to incorporate smoke and gaseous monitoring sensors with their enhanced Portable Automated Weather Station (PAWS). The information that will be available to and assist the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and CSIRO in developing their landscape scale smoke modelling software. This will assist various agencies in conducting prescribed burning operations by taking account
of total and cumulative smoke load within different air shed catchments.

Agencies within the ACT region will be able to coordinate their prescribed burning activities and address concerns from the community (including people with health concerns like asthma) and stakeholders (such as vineyard owners) in relation to potential smoke impacts from prescribed burning. PCS is also working closely with ACT Health and ACT Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in terms of future smoke monitoring requirements, integrated weather information display and EPA licensing for prescribed burns.

Figure 47 - Image of three smoke sensors attached to a single Portable automated weather station

Figure 47 - Image of three smoke sensors attached to a single Portable automated weather station

Due to weather conditions, the 2020-21 Bushfire Season was exceptionally quiet. During the 2020-21 Bushfire Season, EPSDD staff undertook fire standby on 10 days, as follows:

  • 10 days of Level 2 (FDI 12 to 24), an 80 day decrease on 2019-20
  • 0 days of Level 3 (FDI 25 to 49), a 43 day decrease on 2019-20
  • 0 days of Level 4 (FDI 50 to 74),  a 19 day decrease on 2019-20
  • 0 days of Level 5 (FDI 75 t0 100) a 5 day decrease on 2019-20

In 2020-21, the EPSDD recruited 19 seasonal fire fighters for PCS. The seasonal firefighters were utilised in fuel and access management activities, fuel hazard assessments, hazard reduction activities, fire standby and fire suppression.

ICON Water

Under Icon Water’s 2020-21 BOP, 54 bushfire fuel hazard reduction works were completed to protect Icon Water’s assets. These works involved the removal of vegetation and fuel loads aimed to meet requirements of the SBMP and the specific bushfire protection needs of those water and sewer assets.

Icon Water also completed 29 additional hazard reduction tasks that were not identified in the BOP to further mitigate risks.

Suburban Land Agency

The Suburban Land Agency (SLA) BOP covers the calendar years 2019 to 2021 inclusive. The Agency reports regularly on activities completed under the approved BOP and collaborates with the ACT Rural Fire Service when required to ensure compliance for land under the Agency’s custodianship.

Climate Change risks and research

The ESA has been reviewing climate risk in the bushfire context.  Climate risk guidance has been included in the review of the ACT Risk Management Framework and improved collaboration across government to address risks associated with climate change.

The ESA supported ongoing research in bushfire modelling and management, and policy development through organisations such as Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (BNHCRC), Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) and the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). In 2020-21, the ESA attended several bushfire related conferences and forums through the year, all held virtually.

Participation at these events and the sharing of information helps to build a greater understanding of best practice, learning about modern techniques, and builds strong networks across the emergency services domain

Bushfire Prone Areas Map

During 2020-21, the Bushfire Prone Areas (BPA) Map was adjusted to reflect changes in the Built-up Area that reflect the urban expansion of the ACT.  The Bushfire Abatement Zone (BAZ) was also amended to reflect this expansion. The BPA map is a spatial representation of the urban/rural interface and surrounding areas that has been assessed as being at risk from the impact of bushfire. Risk mapping is used to guide planning and preparedness activities. including the development of BOPs, by governments and individuals. The BPA map presents a point in time view of relative bushfire risk. The map information is accessible to the public and searchable through the ACTMAPI site at http://app.actmapi.act.gov.au/actmapi/index.html?viewer=bushfire.

Pre-incident Operational Plans for Bushfire Response Specific pre-incident operational plans were reviewed or developed for key areas of the Territory to assist ACT Fire and Rescue (ACTF&R) and the ACTRFS respond to bushfires. Pre-incident plans that were either developed or reviewed ahead of the 2020-21 bushfire season include:

  • Alivio (Motor Village)
  • Aranda Spine Pre Fire Plan
  • Black Mountain Pre Fire Plan
  • Black Mountain School
  • Bruce and O’Connor Ridge
  • Canberra Concrete Recyclers Pialligo
  • Cooleman Ridge North
  • Cooleman Ridge South
  • CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences
  • CSIRO Ginninderra Experimental Station
  • Curtin Grasslands
  • Hall Village
  • Holt Substation
  • Isaacs Ridge
  • Jack Martin Scrap Metal Fyshwick
  • Molonglo Valley Sewage Treatment Plant
  • Mt Majura Precinct
  • Mt Mugga
  • Mt Rogers
  • Mt Stromlo
  • ANU Observatory
  • Mt Stromlo Water Treatment Plant
  • Mt Taylor
  • Narrabundah Hill
  • National Arboretum
  • Oaks Estate
  • Parkwood
  • Red Hill
  • RSPCA
  • Tharwa Village
  • Uriarra Village
  • Yarralumla Precinct

Power Infrastructure and Bushfire Prevention

The SBMP contains a requirement that over its duration arrangements will be clarified in relation to vegetation management near power infrastructure. Power infrastructure is a known potential source
of ignition.

Section 41D of the Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014 provides that the responsible utility (in this case, an electricity provider) is responsible for all vegetation clearances near overhead powerlines on unleased Territory land in the urban area and non-urban areas (or example, nature strips, urban parks, national parks and reserves).

Under Division 5A.3 of that Act, electricity providers have certain responsibilities for maintaining electricity infrastructure. Electricity providers have specific powers and responsibilities in relation to vegetation management and infrastructure maintenance on rural leased land, including privately owned poles.

The Electricity (Powerline Vegetation Management) Code 2018 provides technical requirements for a responsible utility under section 41D of the Utilities (Technical Regulation) Act 2014 when managing the clearance of vegetation near powerlines. The Code states: “The primary purpose of vegetation management near aerial lines is to reduce the risk of fire and outages caused by trees and other vegetation coming into contact with the lines or associated infrastructure. This includes electric cables and poles, service lines, power poles which may have streetlights connected, conductors, any apparatus connected in conjunction with the conductor for the purpose of transmitting, distributing or supplying electricity. Under the legislation, the responsible utility is responsible for clearing vegetation from aerial lines on unleased Territory land; rural leased land; and national land under agreement with the Commonwealth. The Code requires an electricity provider to submit a Vegetation Management (Bushfire and Environmental) Works Plan to the Utilities Technical Regulator (UTR).

Under the Code, the Works Plan must consider the long-term risk of fire and outages posed by overhead lines on non-urban land, including rural leased land, either through contact with vegetation or faults arising from these assets. The plan must show all proposed vegetation clearing work and alternative options not involving vegetation clearance for reducing bushfire risk caused by overhead powerlines near vegetation.

The ACT’s primary electricity provider, Evoenergy, has an approved Vegetation Management (Bushfire and Environmental) Works Plan in place for 2018-2021 and also provided an updated Bushfire Management Strategy to the UTR during 2020-21.

During 2020-21, the UTR engaged an independent auditor to undertake an audit of Evoenergy and TransGrid’s bushfire preparedness at the commencement of the 2020-21 bushfire season. The site visits and inspections for the audit were undertaken during 2020-21, with the final audit findings expected during the next reporting period. A focus for the audit includes non-conformances carried over from the previous 2019-20 audit such as risk management of hazard trees and defect prioritisation.

Removal of abandoned motor vehicles posing a fire hazard in areas of high bushfire risk

In the ACT, abandoned motor vehicles are regulated and managed by Licensing and Compliance with TCCS. During 2020-21, TCCS progressed a project for the development of a whole of government procedure for the rapid identification and removal of abandoned vehicles posing a fire hazard in areas of high bushfire risk. The ACT Litter Act 2004 was amended to give authorised people and police officers better powers to respond to and manage abandoned vehicles. This includes the power for authorised people to remove vehicles at public places where a person fails to comply with a removal direction or where an authorised person reasonably believes that the vehicle is abandoned. Reasonable grounds include burnt out wrecks, deteriorating body, broken windows, or missing number plates.

Public Awareness, Information and Engagement for Bushfire Risk

The ESA's public awareness, information and engagement activities for the 2020-21 Bushfire Season included face-to-face engagement, online and campaign influence, alerts and warnings and the house door knock campaign. In response to the Covid-19 Pandemic, restrictions were set in place that affected the delivery of community engagement and education events. While some events were cancelled, ACTRFS were flexible in the delivery of their engagements, adjusting some activities to online models.

Community engagement activities included the Get Ready Weekend (virtual), CFU Saturday (virtual) and the ACTESA Open Day (virtual). As restrictions eased, members were able to participate in the Community Pop-Up Stalls, held in 11 locations across Canberra at all the major and some of the smaller shopping centres in the ACT. The ESA maintained its memoranda of understanding with all media partners.