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Photo: New South Wales Rural Fire Service
Fuel reduction burns are also called planned burns, controlled burns or hazard reduction burns. All mean the same thing; land management authorities purposefully burn areas of bush in a controlled way, usually in autumn, to reduce excess ground litter and fuel hazards to limit the severity of bushfires.
Fuel reduction burns should not be confused with “backburning”, which is a last-resort measure used during firefighting efforts to prevent the spread of a bushfire.
The issue when trip planning is the possibility of a planned burn occurring somewhere on or near the route while the trip is in progress.
Each state publishes detailed information on the location of planned burns (see below). Areas to be burnt are identified well in advance, and often the preparations for a burn are obvious, with firebreaks graded, etc. However, the land manager must wait for exactly the right conditions; the dryness of the fuel, exactly the right weather, and the availability of resources to manage the burn, so often as little as 24 hours notice is given.
While areas nearby may remain open, it is most unpleasant and disconcerting being on foot in the bush with smoke around. Smoke persists during and after fuel reduction burns because they are conducted when there is little or no wind.
It is best to postpone or relocate the trip.
New South Wales
In more remote, arid and sparsely vegetated areas of northern and western Australia controlled burns can be ignited for the air and cover much larger areas. However these are generally not bushwalking areas.