International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

The effect of fuel age on the spread of fire in sclerophyll forest in the Sydney region of Australia

Owen F. Price A B and Ross A. Bradstock A

A Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfire, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(1) 35-45
Submitted: 30 September 2008  Accepted: 3 June 2009   Published: 5 February 2010


We investigated the effect of fuel age on the truncation of spread of unplanned fires using a set of 1473 patches in the Sydney region of Australia. Twenty-two percent of patches derived from prescribed fire experienced a subsequent unplanned fire within 5 years, compared with 42% of patches derived from unplanned fires. Among those encounters, the subsequent unplanned fire stopped at the leading edge of 18% of prescribed patches and 11% of unplanned patches. In comparison, the subsequent fire stopped somewhere in the patch for 44% of both prescribed and unplanned fires. Overall, there was a 10% chance that a prescribed burn patch would experience an unplanned fire that stops within the patch. Statistical modelling revealed that the presence of a road barrier was the best predictor of the likelihood of stopping on the leading edge, but fuel age and weather also had an influence. Stopping on the trailing edge was less influenced by the variables analysed. In extreme weather, even 1-year-old patches have a low likelihood of stopping unplanned fires. Fuel age had little influence on the spread of unplanned fires. Consequently, prescribed fires will be most effective when sited at the urban interface where resultant reduced unplanned fire intensity will be a benefit.

Additional keywords: bushfire risk, fire management, prescribed burning.


We thank Janet Cohn for collating much of the data for this analysis and the staff of Department of Environment and Climate Change who, over many years, have created and collated local fire history maps. This work is supported by funding from the Rural Fire Service of NSW.


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