$1.1m boost for forestry fire safety

FORESTRY FIRES: Firefighting capability will receive a $1.1m boost with the State Government announcing the two-year funding to safeguard the Limestone Coast forestry sector.

NEW fire detection technology and the upgrade of fire-spotting towers across the Limestone Coast forestry estate will be funded as part of a $1.1m State Government investment.

The investment will see the fire-tower network staffed, as well as the continuation maintenance work to address issues with the ageing tower infrastructure, some of which are 80 years old.

Extra funding will also be delivered for additional fuel reduction burns and the maintenance of firefighting equipment.

Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said the funding spend would be done in consultation with the forestry industry to ensure the most effective and innovative use of the funds.

“The government will sit down with the forest industry to discuss and agree on the most effective spend, including consideration of new and emerging technologies for fire risk mitigation,” he said.

“A state-of-the-art camera system trial has been underway at The Bluff (near Glencoe) for several months already.

“Another site, south of Penola, will now be commissioned by ForestrySA.

“In time, a network of cameras could potentially utilise artificial intelligence to increase the accuracy of detection.

“We need to further understand how this camera technology can be best utilised for our local conditions.”

The fire detection cameras scan a 360-degree radius from towers and directly transmit data to a regional fire control centre.

The cameras look for smoke from the critical early stages of a fire.

While the technology will not be fully proven for the approaching fire season, early findings indicate that fire detection can be carried out more safely and efficiently.

Mr Basham said although the government-owned ForestrySA has not had commercial forestry responsibilities in the region since 2015, the business has had a vital role in delivering community fire protection.

ForestrySA chief executive Julian Speed said work was underway preparing for the upcoming season.

He said details of all projects within the $1.1m commitment will be confirmed with the industry prior to roll out and discussions will start immediately.

“ForestrySA will staff the fire towers for the upcoming season and works are underway to provide maintenance to towers, some of which are 80 years old,” Mr Speed said.

“By having strong partnerships, we can build on the existing work being done by industry to prevent and detect forest fires, ultimately protecting the wider community as well as the valuable timber assets.”

The announcement follows the government’s $100m spend ahead of the upcoming fire danger season, including $97.5m for the state’s emergency services sector.