Hotspots Fire Project rolls out across the Pappinbarra Valley

More understanding: Pappinbarra landowners participating in the Hotspots Fire Project.
More understanding: Pappinbarra landowners participating in the Hotspots Fire Project.

Two years after fires devastated the Pappinbarra district, landholders have accessed a new initiative aimed at helping residents better prepare against the threat of bushfire.

In February 2017, the Pappinbarra Valley had one of its worst bushfires in history, with over 40 properties impacted. Six homes were lost.

Over 50 landholders from the Pappinbarra area attended the Hotspots Fire Project held at the Hollisdale Community Hall in February.  

Hotspots is a partnership program led by the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.  

Other partner agencies and organisations included NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Corporation of NSW and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council.

Landowner and participant Lisa McLeod, described the event as "fantastic".

"It brought together a large group of people with the common goal to better understand what fire can do and how properties can be impacted," Ms McLeod said.

"We were also given information on what we can do to help ourselves.

"It was very hands-on including walking across a property and learning what impacts the 2017 fires had on it.

"We also learnt why some areas were affected and why other areas fared better," she said.

"The discussions were about understanding the lay of the land along with identifying a particular species of plant."

Ms McLeod said ecologists gave advice about what plants could lessen the impact of fires and how wildlife could survive in certain areas.

The discussions were about understanding the lay of the land along with identifying the particular species of plants.

Lisa McLeod

There was also discussion on how regrowth can come back after a fire, she said.

Participants were provided an aerial photo of their properties which was used to identify what plants consisted on their properties.

"We were also advised how we should treat certain areas for future burn offs," she said.

"This was about how we can better manage growth, regeneration and management of our properties.

"This information will help us change what and where we plant."

Council’s ecologist Rebecca Montague-Drake said the Port Macquarie-Hastings is well known for its rich biodiversity values which range from fire-dependent species and ecosystems through to those intolerant of any fire. 

"The Hastings-Macleay area has been recognised as an area of regional Koala Significance and inappropriate fire regimes are known to be a key threat to koala populations," Ms Montague-Drake said. 

"The Hastings-Macleay Fire and Biodiversity Consortium are currently working together to better ensure that high intensity bush fires are reduced in areas of important koala habitat."

The program participants visited areas impacted by the 2017 fires to discuss fire behaviour effects on different types of vegetation. 

This was followed by a facilitated workshop where participants prepared their own individual property fire management plans.  

Plans were developed by tapping into the knowledge of the Hotspots ecologist, Mark Graham, RFS staff and volunteers and other agency staff. 

NSW RFS hotspots facilitator, John Allen, said the hotspots fire project provided and ideal opportunity for landholders to address fire management for the protection of life and property while improving and maintaining biodiversity values.

A second workshop of the hotspots fire project will be held on March 16 2019 where landholders will be given the opportunity to observe a demonstration burn.  

Key messages will be to recognise how fuels, topography and weather effect fire behaviour.  

For those landholders who were unable to attend the hotspots fire project, a waiting list is being created for a further event later in the year.​