Forest Industry Plantations
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Forest Industry Plantations

Forest Plantation Image 1Forest industry brigades

In November 1997, the Victorian Government introduced legislation requiring forest plantation companies to form fire brigades when their plantation assets reached a critical size.

These industry-based fire brigades are operated by the plantation company but are under the operational control of CFA. Industry brigades are only required to service the companies' plantation assets for wildfire response and fire management planning. However if the parent plantation company desires, the brigade is empowered to operate outside their designated area.

Resources for forest industry brigades

Forest Industry Brigades are an important part of CFA's strategies to reduce the likelihood and impact of wildfire. To aid this process, and to maintain appropriate levels of safety, a manual has been developed to provide guidelines for Forest Industry. The contents are as follows:

Guidelines for the Management of Forest Industry Brigade Operations -pdf 381k

Appendicies

For further information regarding these resources contact: CFA's Manager of Forest Industry Brigades

Frequently asked questions

What is special about plantations to justify this legislation?

Firstly, plantations have different fuel structures and fire behaviour characteristics compared to traditional rural environments (grass and scrub).

Many CFA firefighters have not had a lot of experience in fighting plantation fires, and are apprehensive about fires in plantations.

Visibility and access into plantations is less obvious than in grasslands and fire behaviour considerations are more complex.

The Forestry Industry Brigades (FIB) legislation provides an opportunity for the CFA to access members who are specialists in this industry.

These Forestry Industry Brigade members are now available within the CFA structure to provide leadership and guidance to other members and supporting agencies such as Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) who may not be as experienced but still required to aid in plantation fire suppression.


Secondly, different methods of fire suppression and specialist equipment are used in plantation fires.

CFA has some equipment necessary for this type of work. However FIB legislation will enable these specialist brigades to bring into the service a larger number of slip-on configured tankers (i.e. Patrol, Land Cruiser etc type chassis equipped with a small pump and approximately 400ltr water tank) to support bulldozer based dry firefighting operations.

These types of specialist vehicles are currently in short supply within the CFA volunteer fire brigades.

Thirdly in some locations the expansion of plantations is having a 'displacement' effect on farming communities.

The demographics of some rural communities are changing and fewer volunteers are available for firefighting.

Finally, CFA is a volunteer based organisation. This means individuals or businesses that are recipients of CFA services are actually being subsidised by volunteers who make available their time, or by employers through lost productivity when their employees respond as volunteers to an incident.

Plantation fires can often burn for longer periods than other types of fires and incidents.

This legislation reduces the plantation industries subsidisation by the local Community because plantation company's staff are able to continue working at the fire when high manning levels are no longer required, enabling the release of volunteers earlier.

What benefits can the plantation industry receive by forming a Forestry Industry Brigade?

First, common incident management systems and equipment standards between all combat agencies.

Second, empowerment of the plantation company in how firefights are managed on its plantation asset through on-ground and Incident Management Team roles.

These powers are not limited to country area of Victoria (private property); they also apply when operating in protected public land (forested crown land).

Third, company participation as CFA brigade provides a means of cooperation and coordination between other plantation companies, state government departments and local government in issues related to fire management of plantation assets.

Fourth, CFA aids a plantation company to meet its OH&S requirements by setting and providing training opportunities to company staff and contractors.

Finally, a Forestry Industry fire brigade like other CFA brigades has indemnities and powers conferred upon it by the CFA Act. These indemnities reduce the risks the company is exposed to when firefighting and gives the company powers in directing the actions of third parties associated with firefighting activities. Many of these powers and indemnities also apply for planning and implementing fire prevention works.

These powers and indemnities briefly include:

  • The power to control other fire brigades on their land
  • Enter land, buildings and other property for prevention and suppression of fire
  • Take measures reasonable for fire suppression (remove, cut fences, undergrowth, trees, scrub etc)
  • Take water
  • Close traffic
  • Order to withdraw persons who interfere with firefighting operations
  • Damage done during firefighting operations covered by fire insurance
  • Direct interstate fire brigades.

What are the triggers for a plantation company to form a Forestry Industry fire brigade?

Simply, it owning, occupying by lease, license agreement or forest property owners status under a forestry property agreement (Forestry Rights Act 1996) an area of land used for forest plantation purposes of greater than 500ha within an arbitrary 25km radius.

The legislation is more complex than this definition, however it basically means that all plantation companies have to form a Forestry Industry fire brigade once this trigger is met unless CFA determines otherwise.

Plantation companies are requested to notify CFA when this trigger is reached so determination on whether a Forestry Industry Brigade needs to be formed can be made. If it is decided that a brigade should be formed, CFA enters into negotiations with the plantation company on how the service can be provided.

The 25km radius is a trigger. It does not mean that a Forestry Industry fire brigade must be formed in every 25km radius in which the plantation company has assets or that the brigade is even located within the 25km radius.

What are the minimum equipment requirements?

The minimum apparatus requirements specified under the regulations for between 500ha and 10,000ha within the 25km radius trigger are:

  • Chassis(s) capable of traversing all roads and tracks in the designated area
  • Minimum aggregate water carrying quantity of 800 litres
  • Units' equipped with at least 30 metres of 19mm hose connected to a firefighting nozzle and a pump of at least 5hp.

If the area of plantation is greater than 10,000ha within a 25km radius trigger, the minimum requirements for apparatus are:

  • Chassis capable of traversing all roads and tracks in the designated area.
  • Minimum aggregate water carrying quantity of 2,500 litres
  • Units' equipped with at least 30 metres of 19mm hose connected to a firefighting nozzle and a pump of at least 5hp.

Besides the formation of Forestry Industry fire brigades, what else has CFA done to protect plantation assets?

Implemented competency based training programs specific for plantation firefighting for both CFA volunteer and industry members

  • Issuing specialist equipment to volunteer brigades for plantation firefighting
  • Establishment and funding of a Forestry Industry Brigade Project with a full time Project Officer to assist with incorporation of Industry Brigades into CFA
  • It is important to note that these initiatives have been developed in consultation with the plantation industry.
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