With the drought broken and La Niña bringing a wetter than average spring and summer for most of the south-east of NSW it would be easy to assume that the threat of bushfire is minimal this year, however, the significant increase in grass growth during this wet period presents a substantial fire risk in itself once the warmer summer temperatures finally arrive. Grassfires start and move quickly, are easily fanned by winds, are unpredictable and can easily spread into surrounding bushland or threaten property.
The Bowantz Bushfire & Environmental team, in co-operation with Wingecarribee Shire Council, have been busy at work maintaining a large number of APZ sites across the Southern Highlands to help mitigate the fire danger to local residents this summer.
What is an APZ?
An Asset Protection Zone (APZ) is a fuel reduced area surrounding a built asset or structure. This can include any home or major building such as farm and machinery sheds, commercial or heritage buildings, culturally significant sites and important infrastructure such as telecommunications and power supply.
An APZ provides a buffer zone between a bushfire hazard and an asset, an area of reduced bushfire fuel that allows suppression of fire. These areas are designed to reduce the amount of radiant heat generated by the approaching fire that is impacting on the asset or persons. An area from which backburning may be conducted and an area which allows emergency services access and provides a relatively safe area for firefighters and homeowners to defend their property.
A correctly designed and regularly maintained APZ will reduce the risk of direct flame contact on the asset, damage to the built asset from intense radiant heat and ember attack.
How are fuel loads reduced?
A variety of methods can be used to reduce fuel loads, these include the manual removal of ground fuels (sticks, fallen trees, branches, bark, leaves), mowing/slashing of grassed areas, hazard reduction/pile burns, cultural burning and the removal and pruning of trees, shrubs and understory plants.
The reduction of fuel does not require the removal of all vegetation, which would cause environmental damage. Trees and plants can provide you with some bush fire protection from strong winds, intense heat and flying embers (by filtering embers) and changing wind patterns. Some ground cover is also needed to prevent soil erosion. The goal is to reduce the fuel load to reduce radiant heat exposure whilst managing the vegetation in a way that does not provide a path for the transfer of fire to the asset either from the ground or through the tree canopy.
Who manages APZs?
Typically, in urban environments, APZs are managed by local councils and the RFS, however, they can become a requirement of private landowners once you move into the rural zoned larger lot areas.
All land owners in urban and rural areas on bushfire prone mapped land are required to prescribe (BAL Certificate) and implement an APZ in order to secure a Development Application (DA) to construct a new dwelling or undertake a substantial renovation. This is where we can help.
Bowantz can provide advice and certification (BAL Certificate) regarding the required APZ for your development or renovation, guiding you through this tricky process. Our experienced consultants can help to manage the multi-faceted framework of legislation and council requirements. In a lot of situations, there are many elements that come into play when designing your APZ such as;
- Biodiversity Offset Area Threshold Triggers
- Sensitive and Protected Vegetation
- Endangered Ecological Communities
- Riparian Setbacks
- Endangered Flora and Fauna and their Habitat
- Potential Clearing Agreements on Neighbouring Land
- Construction Standards to as Specific BAL Rating