FOREST Fire Management will continue its planned burns program in central Victoria without change despite calls for increased fuel reduction after a devastating summer.
More than 30 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed in fires that burned across large parts of the country.
Forest Fire Management announced it would start its autumn planned burning program in the Loddon Mallee region in the coming weeks.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Scott Falconer said it would be business as usual.
"We will be doing what we do every year," Mr Falconer said. "The way we always approach it is we have a whole lot of potential burns and every year we look at those and nominate.
"We always focus on townships and asset protection. This year there will be a particular focus around Bendigo, Castlemaine, Macedon, and St Arnaud. But there is always a level of flexibility in the program."
La Trobe University Professor Mike Clarke, who is an expert in fire ecology, said agencies needed to reevaluate their plans to prepare for the next fire season.
"These planned burns are carefully thought through years in advance," Mr Clarke said. "We need to reevaluate what is the highest priority given what has been lost in other parts of the state.
"There will need to be a careful bit of reanalysis. Plans look really good until something changes."
But Mr Clarke said it was "too simplistic" to say a lack of planned burns led to this year's bushfire crisis.
"Planned burning is a crucial part of preparation but on a really bad day, it's capacity to save lives is modest," he said.
"There is an unrealistic expectation of how it can make people safer. It's not the panacea to all of our problems.
"At the same time, the public's expectations have gone up. It's an imperfect practice where things could go wrong. It's a challenging thing to be doing."
Mr Falconer agreed planned burning was only one element of fire prevention. He said factors like climate, weather, vegetation, and ignition sources all contributed.
"All of those things combined influence those devastating configurations that we have seen this year in Victoria and other parts of the country," he said.
"There's a myth that it's all about vegetation when it's not."
Mr Falconer said Forest Fire Management would also work with traditional owners.
"It's an increasingly important element," he said. "I'm proud to say in the Loddon Mallee region we are leading the way on this partnership approach with traditional owners.
"Since 2017, we have done more than a dozen traditional burns. We now have more than 30 traditional owner nominated and led burns on the planning program.
"Weather permitting, we will have 10 traditional burns in the region this year. It's a crucial and important for the future that we listen to them and their knowledge."
But Mr Clarke said traditional burns should not be a sole focus of fire prevention.
"It's not a silver bullet that is going to solve all our problems," he said. "I think it's important that traditional owners are involved and we harness the best of their knowledge.
"But I appreciate that the world is quite different to what it was like prior to white settlement. There are 20 million more people added to the landscape and there's new infrastructure.
"It's a much more difficult environment and there's more scope for things to go wrong."
Mr Falconer said Forest Fire Management was transparent with its planned burns. He encouraged residents to stay informed of what was happening in their region.
"The more you know, the more you can understand the factors that lead to the fires," he said. "Often, there is a focus on just one element.
"It's really important to understand that all of those things have a significant contribution to the bigger picture."
Mr Falconer encouraged residents to learn more about the Loddon Mallee Joint Fuel Management Program at ffm.vic.gov.au/bushfire-fuel-and-risk-management/joint-fuel-management-program
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