Managing the risks of using fire in grazing country

Bill Schulke
Formerly Queensland Government

Most of the negative outcomes from fire result from having the wrong fire (usually too hot) at the wrong time.

Wildfires can do a lot of damage and are difficult to extremely dangerous to contain. Wildfires take off under these conditions: high fuel loads, low humidity, high temperature, and wind.

The risks associated with wildfires include:

  • loss of feed
  • loss of nutrients
  • poor ground cover
  • poor pasture response
  • damage to infrastructure and timber resources
  • litigation.

It is safest to burn in the cooler months. In grazing country, fire is most commonly used in Spring following rain. At this time of year the days are warm enough to carry a fire but the nights are still cool enough to contain it. A fire following 25–30mm of rain tends to burn only the aerial parts of plants, leaving mulch on the ground to reduce run-off and erosion. Also, this amount of rain in spring is usually sufficient to stimulate new pasture growth.

Commence your preparation for burning well before spring arrives:

  • Use grazing management to manage fuel loads.
  • Clear firebreaks during autumn or winter.
  • Source and/or service your fire-fighting equipment well ahead of time.
  • Meet your legal obligations by obtaining a permit from your local fire warden, adhering to the conditions stated on the permit, and notifying your neighbours.