Basic Concepts

The “Fire Triangle” illustrates the three essential components of a bush fire: heat, oxygen and fuel. If any of these three is missing, fires cannot start or keep burning.

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Fresh oxygen is always being delivered to a fire by the wind and cannot be controlled.

Heat cannot be usefully reduced in a summer bush fire even with large helicopter water tankers. Pouring water on a fire traditionally used by firemen in urban areas to put out fires in houses and factories where there is ready access to fire hydrants and mains water supplies. In a forest fire situation in Western Australia, the huge quantities of water required to put out a fire are simply not availabl

Fuel is the only element of the fire triangle which can be controlled by land managers. If bushland fuel levels are reduced before a summer bush fire starts, the fire will burn less intensively, will spread less rapidly, will cause less damage and can more easily (and more safely) be controlled by firefighters.

This is the principle on which the practice of fuel reduction burning (FRB) is based. The whole forest fire control strategy in Western Australia was built around this practice and was used with great success from 1961 to about 1990. This 30 year period has provided the evidence for the success of the burning program and its lack of harm to the forest.