Fire control on Russell Island a challenge

ON RUSSELL ISLAND: Rural Fire Service volunteer Lee Goodsell douses smouldering scrub in water in 2016. Photo: Hannah Baker
ON RUSSELL ISLAND: Rural Fire Service volunteer Lee Goodsell douses smouldering scrub in water in 2016. Photo: Hannah Baker

THE mix of council and private land on Russell Island poses a challenge for bushfire management strategies, a review of the island's fire strategy has warned.

Consultant Ten Rivers said in a report to council that the strategy was a long-term plan to reduce landscape bushfire risk on the island based on years of best-practice management.

However the recommendations focused on council-managed land.

"Bushfire risk on private property is the responsibility of the landholders as Redland City Council cannot manage any potential added risk," the report said.

"The recommendations in this fire strategy will assist in reducing the bushfire risk, particularly on council managed land, however, residual risk may remain on private land."

The Russell Island review was in response to recommendations in a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services report on council's fire preparedness after dangerous fires hit Russell and Macleay islands in 2016.

Cr Julie Talty said state legislation was changing and she looked forward to clarity on the rights and responsibilities of residents.

She said council needed to be able to give private landholders better guidance.

She raised concerns about private land owners on the mainland being referred to the Rural Fire Service for help with controlled burning, when mainland ratepayers did not pay towards the service.

Cr Talty said state government controlled land also needed to be considered.

A fire strategy review for council land on Macleay Island was also being done by Ten Rivers, and council had engaged the same consultants to do a mainland review.

Local Disaster Management Group chair Karen Williams said the mainland review would consider issues like public awareness and education to critical asset management and mapping of hot spot areas to allow council to focus fire management resources where there was the greatest need.

She said council's fire management programs were year round, with winter months switching the focus to planning and undertaking burns.

"Cooler months provide better weather for undertaking controlled burns, so while waiting for the review findings, council will continue its ongoing fire management programs to take advantage of conditions," Cr Williams said.

"In addition to the upcoming review, council officers have provided an initial assessment of the community's mainland fire risk to develop our controlled burns program for the remainder of 2019.

"Priority parks and reserves under council's control were identified through assessments, including physical site inspections, or ground truthing, to visually assess fuel loads, and include areas in Redland Bay, Mount Cotton, Birkdale, Alexandra Hills, Cleveland and Sheldon."

In council's draft fire management strategy for this year, 24 planned burns - including 13 on Russell and Macleay islands - are prioritised.

The draft program follows fuel load assessments done by council earlier this year.

Cr Williams said autumn and winter were ideal times for private landowners to assess their property's bushfire risks and take action to reduce them.