Fires have been a feature of the Australian continent ever since it broke away from the Gondwanan landmass 50 million years ago.
Today, fire is a significant public safety issue as well as an issue for our native habitats and the many tens of thousands of species that live within them.
Most eucalypt forests and woodlands, heathlands, grasslands and banksia woodlands have evolved to be dependent of occasional fire in many ways.
But different habitats have very different responses to fire. Some, such as alpine areas, are not fire dependent and others, like rainforests, are damaged or destroyed by fire.
The Bushfires Royal Commission recommended a statewide fuel reduction burn target of 5% of public land (390,000 hectares) each year. That proved a very imperfect strategy, and it has since been changed to a 'risk-based' process for fuel reduction planning. The amount of public land subject to fuel reduction has, however, changed very little so far.
But the evidence is increasingly showing that this overly simplistic target is not the best way to increase public safety, and it is likely to lead to long-term damage to our finest natural areas.
Independent monitor calls for burn target review
Ecologists fear burn overkill
The 2009 the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended a tripling of annual prescribed burning in Victoria, but leading ecologists are voicing serious concerns about such a massive burn regime. Rachel Carbonell reports for Radio National.
Reducing fuel for fire
Fire - what's on the record
> Royal Commission into the 2009 fires
> Royal Commission and planned burning
> More to learn about fire before setting a burn-off target
> Rethink fuel reduction burns
> Planned burns and clearing will not stop catastrophic fire events
> Fire and biodiversity - notes from the 2011 symposium