Prescribed burn in Milyeannup National Park. Photo by Kyle Hulls/DBCA
Prescribed burn in Milyeannup National Park. Photo by Kyle Hulls/DBCA

This service is responsible for using planned fire to achieve community and asset protection, and land, forest, and biodiversity management objectives. The department is committed to proactively reducing risk rather than relying on bushfire suppression and response.

Performance summary

Table 7: Service 9 performance summary


2020–21 target

2020–21 actual


Expenses by service




Key efficiency indicator


Average cost per hectare burnt 




Key effectiveness indicator


Proportion of planned Priority 1 prescribed burns achieved 




More information on these indicators can be found in the Disclosures and Legal Compliance section under Key Performance Indicators.

Prescribed burning performance measures

DBCA applies three performance measures when assessing the effectiveness of the annual prescribed burning program for its south-west forest regions:

i. Annual prescribed burning targets for special land management zones (LMZs) in DBCA's three south-west forest regions.

The zones (shown in Figure 3) are at the interface of populated areas and natural lands. Zoning is determined by distance from the urban interface. LMZ A extends 3.5km from a populated area. LMZ B extends a further 7.5km. LMZ C comprises the remainder of DBCA-managed landscape. LMZ C is further from populated areas but is traversed by infrastructure corridors of economic and public safety significance (for example powerlines, highways) and contains important biodiversity, recreational, timber production, water catchment and other values.

Figure 4: Land management zones
DBCA land management zones

The prescribed burning targets for each zone are based on the proportion of DBCA-managed land in that zone and are a portion of the nominal 200,000 hectares annual prescribed burning target for the south-west forest regions. The 2020–21 targets and achievements for each LMZ are shown in Table 8.

Table 8: 2020–21 LMZ prescribed burning achievements


Distance from populated area

Nominal 2020–21
target (hectares)

Achieved (hectares)

of target


within 3.5km










beyond 11km




ii To maintain a fuel age of less than six years since last burnt in at least 45 per cent of the landscape across DBCA's three south-west forest regions.

A 2009 study in the south-west forests undertaken by Dr Matthias Boer and others determined that prescribed fire treatments had a significant effect on reducing the frequency and size of bushfire up to six years after treatment. ‘The proportion of department-managed lands in the south-west forest regions that is less than six years since last burnt’ is therefore used as an annual indicator of the effectiveness of DBCA's prescribed burning program in mitigating bushfire risk.

To achieve the 45 per cent target, DBCA aims to conduct prescribed burning over at least 200,000 hectares per annum. At 30 June 2021, 48.2 per cent of the landscape had a fuel age of less than six years, compared to 49.5 per cent one year earlier.

iii Ratio of CALM Act tenure land affected by bushfire (where DBCA was the initial attack agency), to prescribed burn area.

This is one of a suite of national reporting measures on the state of Australian forests. There is no specific target for this measure. The assumption underlying this measure is that environmental integrity and functionality will be greater where prescribed fire comprises a greater proportion of the total fire load.

The ratio for 2020–21 was 1:0.09 (prescribed burning 156,106 hectares : bushfire 14,799 hectares).

Note: Areas used to calculate the bushfire to prescribed burn ratio relate to CALM Act tenure only. The respective figures are therefore less than the total figures for bushfires and prescribed burns used elsewhere in the annual report, which include other tenures.

Performance highlights

  • DBCA achieved 171,236 hectares of prescribed burning in the south-west forest regions in 202021. This year’s program was assisted by additional State Government funding of $5.77 million via the Enhanced Prescribed Burning Program. 
  • A further 3,601,999 hectares was burnt in DBCA’s other six regions: the Kimberley, Pilbara, Goldfields, Midwest, Wheatbelt and South Coast. These prescribed burns were carried out on DBCA-managed land as well as on unallocated Crown land and unmanaged reserves, often in conjunction with other land managers, including traditional owner groups. 
  • Through the Women in Fire Management Action Plan 2019–22, DBCA has continued to achieve improvement in gender diversity across the fire management workforce with increased female representation in the duty fire officer roles, permanent fire management positions at level 4 and above, and permanent frontline firefighter positions.

Prescribed fire planning and risk management 

  • DBCA continued implementing the Bushfire Risk Management Framework, which helps prioritise bushfire mitigation work on departmental lands through the development of Regional Fuel Management Plans. At 30 June 2021, each of DBCA's nine regions had finalised a Regional Fuel Management Plan.  
  • Through its ongoing assurance program, the Office of Bushfire Risk Management considered a range of DBCA’s prescribed fire planning processes in the Perth Hills and Wellington districts. The findings confirmed that DBCA’s processes for planning and implementing prescribed burning align with ISO 31000:2018, the international standard for risk management. 

Bushfire risk management on unallocated Crown land

  • DBCA is responsible for the coordination and on-ground management of bushfire risk through targeted bushfire mitigation on 91 million hectares of unallocated Crown land and unmanaged reserves outside the Perth metropolitan area and townsites.
  • Significant on-ground mitigation work was made possible through the continued strategic investment of funding from the State Government’s Mitigation Activity Fund to protect communities, economies, infrastructure, and the environment, through planned and targeted treatments, by reducing the fuel available to sustain a bushfire, allowing effective control and improving access to allow the rapid control of bushfires.
  • In 2019–20, 474km (3082 hectares) of modified vegetation buffers, 878km of fire access track and 532,850 hectares of prescribed burning were completed. In 2020–21, 377km (2831 hectares) of modified vegetation buffers, 1731 km of fire access track and 818,708 hectares of prescribed burning were completed. This work complemented Department of Fire and Emergency Services and local government activities.
  • DBCA continued to engage and build partnerships with other stakeholders, including Aboriginal groups and communities and neighbouring farmers and pastoralists, particularly in the Kimberley, Pilbara, Midwest, Wheatbelt, South Coast and Goldfields regions.

Fire Management Development Program (FMDP)

  • The FMDP has 13 full-time participants working across several regions and districts.
  • The FMDP Expansion Program provides opportunities for staff to focus their career development through enhancing their fire knowledge and fast-tracking skill. As of 30 June 2021, there were seven employees in the program from several of DBCA’s regions. One employee commenced in the program this year and two have transferred into permanent FMDP positions. The expansion program will undertake another nomination and intake process in the 2021–22 financial year.
  • From 2018 to 2020, the percentage of applicants who are women has risen from 12 per cent to 34 per cent. 

Fire ecology education programs

  • Fire Management Services Branch continued to work with Public Information and Corporate Affairs Branch to provide a range of Nearer to Nature fire education programs, with 2600 participants in 2020–21. School students examined how prevention, mitigation, and preparedness minimise the effects of bushfires. Forest management, fire behaviour, ecological consequences of fire on the environment and protection of habitat all feature in Nearer to Nature’s suite of programs. The programs underwent a major review and have been updated to be delivered according to Know Your Patch principles.
Page reviewed 20 Sep 2021