Forest burns take heat out of fires

FUEL-reduction burning helped firefighters contain a bushfire that was burning out of control in state forest near Mathinna this week.

Forestry Tasmania Bass area forest manager Peter Bird said the fire, which started on Tuesday and burnt 135 hectares, included an area of forest that had been subject to fuel reduction burns in September 2010.

``When the bushfire got to an area that we had burnt through, the fire activity reduced significantly to a point that it was able to be contained,'' Mr Bird said.

``It doesn't mean that an area doesn't burn, but it burns much slower and safer and more manageably.''

Forestry Tasmania plans to conduct burns on 20,400 hectares this year, of which 7785 hectares has already been completed.

In Bass half of the 8000-hectare fuel-reduction program was completed last spring.

The rest will be done in autumn when the fire risk is reduced.

The Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment Department conducted 27 fuel reduction burns measuring 1927 hectares last financial year, well shy of its target of 36 fires totalling 10,000 hectares.

A department spokesman said those burns that were conducted targeted bushland near populated areas.

The East Coast has been the focus of fuel reduction burns since bushfires destroyed homes near Scamander in 2006.

A Forestry Tasmania spokesman said the state's three firefighting agencies conducted patterned burns in a semi-circle around St Helens and Scamander to prevent a repeat of the 2006 fires.

Premer Lara Giddings said it was too early to tell if fuel reduction burns could have reduced the severity of this year's bushfires.

She said that 80 per cent of the land burnt on the Tasman Peninsula was privately owned and therefore outside the reach of burn programs.

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