Monday, 21 January 2013

Alien Environment Fuels Firestorms by Viv Forbes

A recent report from friends who suffered terrible losses of buildings, fences, pasture and cattle in the Coonabarabran fire commenced with the ominous and oft-repeated message: “a raging fire came out of the National Park straight for us”.

There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.

Fuel load can be reduced in three ways – by grazing animals, by planned small “cool” fires, or by mechanical reduction with slashers, mulchers or dozers.

Australia’s grassland landscape was created and managed by generations of Aborigines who were masters at using man’s most useful tool – fire. Every explorer from Abel Tasman (1642) and Captain Cook (1770) onwards noted the smoke in the sky and the burnt trees whenever they landed. This burning created the open grassland landscapes that dominated pre-European Australia. Aborigines lit fires continually, so their small patchwork fires caused no permanent damage to the environment and created and maintained the healthy grasslands on which many animals and Aborigines depended.

Misguided tree lovers and green politicians have locked the gates on ever-increasing areas of land for trees, parks, heritage, wilderness, habitat, weekend retreats, carbon sequestration etc. Never before on this ancient continent has anyone tried to ban land use or limit bush fires on certain land. The short-sighted policy of surrounding their massive land-banks with fences, locked gates and fire bans has created a new alien environment in Australia. They have created tinder boxes where the growth of woody weeds and the accumulation of dead vegetation in eucalypt re-growth create the perfect environment for fierce fires. Once ignited by lightning, carelessness or arson, the inevitable fire-storms incinerate the park trees and wildlife, and then invade the unfortunate neighbouring properties.

Many of today’s locked-up areas were created to sequester carbon to fulfil Kyoto obligations. Who pays the carbon tax on the carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere by wild fires?

The green bureaucracies and politicians are clearly mis-managing their huge land-bank. Aborigines and graziers did a far better job. There should be a moratorium on locking up any more land and a return to sustainable management for existing land holdings.  

Viv Forbes,
Rosewood    Qld   Australia
Previous related discussions


  1. 'Vegetation build-up fuels fires in national parks''is a comphrensive article in the Timber & Forestry eNews. The article is on page one & continues on pages 3 & 6.
    "Professional foresters have attacked opponents of controlled forest burns; they are oblivious to science, they say.
    This summer’s rolling fires through fuel-packed reserves is another smack in the eye to the philosophies of the idiotic Greens and their opportunistic partners from the ALP,” says respected forester Dick Pegg who was fire protection officer with Queensland forestry from 1970 to 1976.
    “There’s no point in learning a lesson on bushfires when the same is learnt every few years with no practical mitigation measures put in place because‘the medicine is refused by the patient’,” Mr Pegg said.
    “If the population has little or no understanding of fire behaviour and the need for fuel reduction and continues to support the Greens with their idiotic and irresponsible policies, then we will continue to see these
    disasters repeated over and over again."

  2. Sad really, as well as stupid. As well as impacts on humans, the animals also lose out in a big way from what is probably meant to protect them.

  3. Face facts on Wildfires is an opinion article by Senator Chris Black publish at Rural Press’s farmonline.
    “WE can’t prevent wildfires but we can manage their impact and the damage they cause.
    The conflagration we have just witnessed across three Australian states is not the effect of global warming.
    What we are seeing is the long-term effect of ignorance, and a failure to implement well-established and proven land management practices.
    Those well-versed in bushfire behaviour are all too familiar with the so called DEAD cycle.
    It is unerringly accurate. Disaster followed by Enquiry followed by Apathy and the next inevitable Disaster.
    Little is being done to break the cycle.”

  4. This is a great article by Viv Forbes. And the well-informed comments by Senator Chris Black and forester Dick Pegg, as quoted by Dale, are also spot-on.

    As Viv points out, “There is only one way to limit fire damage – reduce the fuel available.” As he also mentions, it was by the frequent use of fire that the Aborigines maintained the open grasslands that dominated the landscape prior to European settlement. And until recent times, firies regularly reduced fire hazards by organised ‘cool’ control burns in State forests etc, thereby reducing the possibility of the out-of-control wild fires that endanger surrounding properties.

    Now, thanks to environmentalism, the shutting up of forests from grazing and banning of control burning, an excessive fuel build-up so often leads to disastrous consequences. For instance, local firies who fought in the Snowy Mountain region reported up to 40 tons of fuel loading in places. As a result, a raging inferno ensued.

    Three weeks after that event, I personally witnessed the aftermath of those fires in the Snowies. And the fact is nothing could have been more environmentally destructive. The fire was of such intensity that not only all vegetation but also all organic matter within the topsoil had been destroyed, and holes burned deep into the ground marked where dead trees and fence posts had once stood. Rocks had even been split or had their surfaces completely flaked off.

    I’ll never forget the experience of visiting the Thomas Craigie Lookout (toward the Victorian border) and gazing across the denuded landscape that was more resembling of a war zone: one charred rolling hill after another as far as the eye could see, devoid of all life. What impacted on me most was the eerie silence: not a leaf, not a blade of grass to rustle in the breeze, not a bird call or any sound at all – just a deathly silence in a sterile land.

    Yet authorities persist in holding meaningless enquiries and continue to refuse to heed the wise counsel of those with many years’ fire fighting experience - with tragic consequences for human life and even for nature and the environment itself.

  5. National Parks Fueled Summer Bushfires in the Pilliga, published today by Jennifer Marohasy.
    "The extent of the bushfire that ravaged the region – that also includes Baradine, Coolah and Dunedo – was in part a consequence of the creation of large areas of national park by a government that promised the creation of the National Parks would ensure the permanent conservation of the forests.
    ....The Australian public was told that the NSW government had saved these iconic forests.

    Not true.

    But it is the victor who gets to write the history in his favor, and so the origin of the magnificent Pilliga forests that were so badly burnt this summer, and the timber communities that nurtured them over more than three generations is ignored – to one day be forgotten."


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