Our response to wildfire
Wildfire is an increasing risk for the Commission and the forest products industry. We are reviewing and developing new operational strategies to respond to fire. This includes site preparation, design, maintenance procedures and working relationships with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and Parks and Wildlife.
Approximately 50 of our staff are on the Parks and Wildlife fire management roster, with the majority being front line first responders. Our staff accumulated nearly 5,000 hours on fire response during the 2015-16 bushfire season. This illustrates our commitment to assisting the state’s bushfire effort.
A significant event in 2016 was the Waroona fire which began as a result of a lightning strike in the Lane Poole Reserve on 6 January 2016.
About 30 of our staff were deployed by Parks and Wildlife to assist with the fire-fighting and suppression efforts.
The fire burnt a total of 71,000 ha, including 2,800 ha of pine trees on Crown land in the McLarty and Myalup Plantations and 500 ha on privately leased land. The plantations damaged by the fire ranged in age from three to 40 years.
The significant forestry loss is estimated at 500,000 cubic metres of standing timber resource from these bushfires. This is equivalent to approximately seven month’s supply to major log processors.
In the aftermath of the devastating Waroona fire, and before the salvage operations could commence, up to 20 of our staff were required to search for and neutralise any remaining hot spots in the plantations. This required a major effort outside of normal working hours.
Following the Waroona fire, the Commission identified opportunities to salvage merchantable timber.
Salvage options were determined by age, level of damage and available markets. Time has been critical as burnt timber deteriorates quickly.
New markets were identified which helped minimise site clean-up and preparation costs ahead of new plantings.
By 30 June 2016, more than 900 ha had been salvage harvested, producing 140,000 tonnes of products which were sold to current domestic customers and new residue markets for power generation.
Approximately 1,000 ha remain to be salvaged with other areas too young to produce commercial outcomes.
The Crown land plantations are estimated to cost $6.2 million to replace, with the majority of funding budgeted for 2016–17 and 2017–18. The replacement process commenced in June 2016 with approximately 200 ha replanted. The balance of the plantation will require more than 2.7 million pine seedlings which be planted over the next two winter seasons.
The Commission’s nursery staff have worked hard to prepare healthy pine seedlings for the replanting. The nursery has a long history of tree breeding and works to continuously improve the growth rates and quality of trees being planted.