Hazard Reduction Burns
Smoke from hazard reduction burns or bush fires can have a serious and widespread impact on the health of people with asthma and respiratory illness. Individuals play an important role in building personal resilience by achieving optimal asthma control, being prepared and keeping informed about smoke hazards.
About Hazard Reduction Burns
Hazard Reduction Burns occur on an annual basis, generally during the months of April, May and June. Hazard reduction burns are carefully planned and scheduled using weather forecasts, air quality readings and smoke plume modelling.
They are undertaken by many different organisations and agencies across Australia and information on their occurrence is publicly available via fire services on the links provided below.
Smoke from Hazard Reduction Burns usually has a low impact on residential areas. However, weather patterns can be unpredictable and can result in harmful penetration of smoke into the community.
How to prepare
People with asthma need to be mindful of the potential harm of smoke from hazard reduction and unplanned bush fires and equip themselves optimally to reduce their exposure to this risk.
Pregnant women, the elderly and young children are particularly vulnerable to breathing difficulties caused by smoke and reduced air quality.
- People with asthma should aim for optimal asthma control, which means few symptoms and minimal reliance on their blue reliever. The need to use the blue reliever inhaler more than twice per week may mean that a person with asthma is not experiencing the best control and they should speak to their doctor about this.
- Obtaining optimum control often means use of an asthma preventer inhaler, for the long term, regularly, according to the doctor’s prescription. Preventer medicines can take up to 4 weeks to be effective so it’s important to discuss this need with their doctor early so the benefits can be in place well in advance of hazard reduction season
- People with asthma should also ensure they have an updated Asthma Action Plan with clear instructions on what to do in the case of an asthma flare-up. Access to a blue reliever puffer at all times is also critical in helping manage asthma symptoms during hazard reduction burn season (generally Autumn and beginning of winter)
- If hazard reduction burns are occurring in your area, minimise exposure by staying indoors and keep windows and doors closed. Turn air conditioning to recycle air only. You can also seek refuge in buildings with recycled air conditioning, such as local government libraries, galleries or shopping centres.
- If you need extra support in managing your asthma or have questions, call our 1800 ASTHMA Helpline (1800 278 462).
To be prepared, people can stay informed about bush fires and hazard reduction burns by checking these links and/or downloading app (NSW) as below – particularly during April, May and June:
Asthma Australia is in discussion with key authorities on ways to improve communications and alert warning systems for people with asthma who may be adversely affected by smoke from hazard reduction burns.
Asthma Australia undertakes surveys in locations adversely affected by smoke to gather community insights into the level by which people were affected by asthma and what would best prepare them for these situations. This information informs our media, advocacy and lobbying work with governments and agencies.
In 2019, Asthma Australia will be working with NSW Rural Fire Service to deliver an asthma education campaign to its volunteers. People working in the emergency services and for organisations who undertake hazard reduction burns are particularly at risk of negative health impacts cause by smoke.
By working with volunteers, we hope to influence change starting with internal awareness.