Apr 22, 2021, 14:00 PM


With prescribed burns, it’s always about the timing. Not only does the season have to be right and the fuel load dry, but it has to be a cool day with some humidity, and as little wind as possible.

When you’re in an urban area, there are dozens of other considerations – from pruning and felling larger trees, to the presence of firefighting expertise – before a controlled burn can be carried out effectively and safely.

This was why a group of our bushland experts could be found consulting with Bayside City Council officials at dawn each morning for two weeks, before it was deemed safe to burn the coast tea tree forest at Beaumaris’s Donald MacDonald Reserve on April 19th.

“We all had fairly restless nights and early morning rises in the days beforehand,” jokes Citywide’s Bushland and Nursery Operational Supervisor, Jo Hurse.

“A few days the conditions were right but the wind was picking up in the afternoon, so we had to wait a bit longer. But we got there in the end.”

The 12-strong Bushland crew were joined by three members of Citywide’s drainage team and two eductor trucks – relieved of their usual duties to provide an even more important service as temporary fire-trucks.

Because of the nature of the tea tree forest, it was necessary for a few of the Citywide crew to stick around for at least 36 hours after the burn – making sure none of the trees sparked back to life.

“With tea trees, fire can get into their roots and reignite underground,” explains Jo Hurse. “Because this reserve is surrounded by houses, it was critical we stayed there until any risk of potential flareups had completely disappeared. The Bushland crew certainly go ‘over and above’ to ensure that everything goes to plan.”

Extended responsibilities

The Beaumaris burn was one of two significant burns – each covering 4,000m² – carried out in Bayside over the past month.

The burns represent a significant upscaling of Citywide’s prescribed burning services – which have previously been limited to 1,000m² or less in the Bayside municipality.

“This is the first time we’ve done burns of this size in Bayside,” says Jo Hurse. “It’s a reflection of how seriously the council takes the long-term ecological management of these very important little reserves. This is particularly true of Donald MacDonald Reserve, where the coast tea tree is regarded as a weed this far inland.”

The other ‘cool burn’ – born from the traditional practice of Aboriginal firestick-burning – was in George Street Reserve, next to Sandringham Golf Course, where the ancient heathland should be burned at least once every 15 years to promote its regeneration.

Both burns had been scheduled for 2020 but were postponed due to health concerns arising from the COVID pandemic. Both were preceded by at least two months of tree-felling and ground preparations, as well as extensive resident notifications and safety preparations.

Video Credit: Cameron Arden, Bushland Crew Member
Banner photo courtesy of Pauline Reynolds

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Media Contact: 
Simon Mossman - Group Corporate Communications 
M 0427 307 216 
simon.mossman@citywide.com.au