Biomass burning releases trace gases and aerosol particles that significantly affect the composition and chemistry of the atmosphere. Australia contributes approximately 8% of gross global carbon emissions from biomass burning, yet there are few previous measurements of emissions from Australian forest fires available in the literature. This paper describes the results of field measurements of trace gases emitted during hazard reduction burns in Australian temperate forests using open-path Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. In a companion paper, similar techniques are used to characterise the emissions from hazard reduction burns in the savanna regions of the Northern Territory. Details of the experimental methods are explained, including both the measurement set-up and the analysis techniques employed. The advantages and disadvantages of different ways to estimate whole-fire emission factors are discussed and a measurement uncertainty budget is developed. Emission factors for Australian temperate forest fires are measured locally for the first time for many trace gases. Where ecosystem-relevant data are required, we recommend the following emission factors for Australian temperate forest fires (in grams of gas emitted per kilogram of dry fuel burned) which are our mean measured values: 1620 ± 160 g kg−1 of carbon dioxide; 120 ± 20 g kg−1 of carbon monoxide; 3.6 ± 1.1 g kg−1 of methane; 1.3 ± 0.3 g kg−1 of ethylene; 1.7 ± 0.4 g kg−1 of formaldehyde; 2.4 ± 1.2 g kg−1 of methanol; 3.8 ± 1.3 g kg−1 of acetic acid; 0.4 ± 0.2 g kg−1 of formic acid; 1.6 ± 0.6 g kg−1 of ammonia; 0.15 ± 0.09 g kg−1 of nitrous oxide and 0.5 ± 0.2 g kg−1 of ethane.