Hazard reduction science in podcast | Natural Hazards Research Australia

Hazard reduction science in podcast

Photo: Zahlia Ligthart

The complexity and science of prescribed burning and the role these burns play in reducing bushfire risk is covered by Natural Hazards Research Australia researcher Dr Hamish Clarke (University of Melbourne) in a new podcast.

The opening episode of season three of the Debunks science podcast tackles this complex topic, aided by Hamish’s scientific insights. In the episode, Hamish outlines how prescribed burning works and why local details matter the most, such as fire regimes for any given area, the vegetation type and amount, as well as the terrain.

“A really important message is that the local landscape matters,” says Hamish.

Hamish explains the risks of prescribed burning and why the weather is one of the most important factors that influences if a prescribed burn can take place. As fire seasons get longer under the influence of climate change, the weather windows when prescribed burning can take place safely are changing. Too wet and the vegetation won’t burn, but too dry and prescribed burns can escape and become a bushfire. Hamish also outlines the amount of planning and strategy that is required for every prescribed burn.

“You’ve got a kind of goldilocks situation, you need the right weather conditions”, says Hamish.

“That is the minimum bar to jump, you don’t want to be doing it under the wrong conditions. But within that there is a very big planning system that goes into it. You’re thinking about risk in the landscape and areas that you want to target; you’re thinking about where communities are and where resources are.”

Hamish also outlines the other ways, outside of using fire, to reduce fuel loads in the bush, such as mulching, thinning, pruning or mowing.

“Instead of changing the fuel with fire, you’re changing it with some kind of tool or machines.”

Also feature in the episode is Dr Rohan Fisher from Charles Darwin University, covering the use of prescribed fire in central and northern Australia, along with how First Nations peoples used fire.

Listen to the podcast on the Cosmos website or on your preferred podcast platform.