The Forest Practices Authority

Smoke management from planned burns

Making a complaint:

All complaints relating to smoke should be lodged with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) (telephone 1800 005 171)

__________________________________________________________________

copyright FPA

Tasmania's Coordinated Smoke Management System (CSMS):
A smoke management tool for planned burns co-ordinated by the Forest Practices Authority (FPA)

The FPA is the statutory body responsible for regulating forest practices in Tasmania. Vegetation burns conducted as part of forest harvesting or regeneration operations are subject to prescriptions in certified forest practices plans. Alleged breaches of forest practices plans are investigated by the FPA.  Alleged breaches of air quality standards are investigated by EPA.

The FPA has developed a Co-ordinated Smoke Management Strategy (CSMS) to reduce smoke pollution levels near populated areas, in consultation with the EPA, the forest industry, the Department of Health and Human Services, Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) and Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS). The strategy provides for:

  • the coordination of planned burns in relation to weather forecasts to minimise the risk of high concentrations of smoke within each of 11 regional 'air sheds' in Tasmania
  • improved training and accreditation of personnel involved in the planning and conduct of burns
  • feedback from a network of smoke monitoring stations.

The CSMS is a voluntary system (currently used by the forest industry, TFS and PWS) which has significantly reduced the levels of smoke pollution near populated centres since Smoke management guidelines were introduced on a trial basis in 2009. The guidelines include planning for smoke dispersal using data and models developed by the Bureau of Meteorology that aim to reduce the risk of smoke pollution near populated centres. Planned burns on any one day are centrally co-ordinated through an on-line CSMS computer system managed by the FPA using weather forecast data supplied by the Bureau of Meteorology through the EPA.  The system takes into account individual burn locations, fuel loads, forecasted local weather conditions, and existing smoke. If poor smoke dispersal is forecast, burns may be limited or will not go ahead.

Under suitable conditions much of the smoke from high intensity forestry burns is carried away from populated centres through the convection columns created and upper atmospheric dispersal. Under unfavourable conditions, and when high-intensity burns enter a smouldering phase near the end of the burn, smoke may accumulate at ground level, which the system plans to avoid. Fuel reduction burns tend to be of low intensity and result in smoke concentrations or dispersal closer to ground level, which can cause local nuisance.

The EPA and FPA review the guidelines and the co-ordination system applied to burns and seek to make improvements to the guidelines in consultation with the major burn operators every year.  Improvements to the guidelines are specified on the special CSMS website used by burners. The system is designed to enable important hazard reduction programs. Continuing refinements to the CSMS will reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the risk of smoke from planned vegetation burn-offs affecting populated areas.

Leaflet on Planned burns and smoke management

The What’s Burning Now website managed by the Tasmania Fire Service provides information on proposed, active and completed burns, and has links to the websites of various entities undertaking burns.

Content last modified June 3, 2020, 11:50 am