Fire on Bush Heritage reserves

Monday 21 December, 2009

There have been several recent wildfires on Bush Heritage reserves in Queensland, as the fire season gets underway.

Fires threatening Carnarvon Station Reserve, Qld. Photo Steve Prothero.Fires threatening Carnarvon Station Reserve, Qld. Photo Steve Prothero.

Both Goonderoo Reserve and Carnarvon Station Reserve have seen fire activity over the last few months, and staff and neighbours have put in massive efforts fighting the fires.

Prescribed or controlled burns and the reinstatement of firebreaks across both properties earlier in the year helped to contain the fires, and back-burning activities during the fires reduced fire intensity and subsequent impact on vegetation and wildlife.

Thanks to our neighbours at Goonderoo Reserve

On 24 August a fire started on the highway between Emerald and Springsure, up against the reserve boundary. The reserve’s volunteer caretakers were off-site, but neighbours arrived very quickly and put in a huge effort to contain the fire.

Intensely burnt forest on Carnarvon Station Reserve, Qld. Photo Cathy Zwick.Intensely burnt forest on Carnarvon. Photo Cathy Zwick.

We’d especially like to thank our agistor, Shannon Bodiam, neighbours Hugo Spooner and Vic Roffey, the Rural Fire Service and their volunteers, and Tony Sullivan, the local fire warden. With the help of more than 20 people, the fire was contained.

Around 100 ha were burnt, but the fire-sensitive brigalow largely escaped intact.

Evaluating wildfire and fire management at Carnarvon Station Reserve

On Wednesday 23 September, under difficult fire weather conditions, a wildfire crossed the southern boundary of Carnarvon Station Reserve heading in a north-easterly direction. An all-day, all-night effort by Bush Heritage staff, pastoral neighbours and Queensland Rural Fire Service volunteers managed to limit its extent, thanks to an early decision to back-burn from existing firebreaks and maintain these containment lines.

Spring fires form part of the active management of the fire ecology of the reserve. However, we prefer them to occur in conditions where they can be managed by staff with reasonable effort and not fought in a situation of urgency and higher risk.

The 23 000 ha of country affected by this September wildfire burnt at a range of intensities. An initial post-fire assessment showed that many areas had burnt at lower intensity, more closely resembling a controlled burn.

This result is again due to the back-burning operations undertaken by firefighters on the ground on the first night of the fire.

Preliminary excursions indicate the brigalow scrub has not been affected, but some areas of fire-sensitive lancewood have been burnt. In many places the fire intensity was cool enough to spare small saplings.

We are yet to access the more intensely burnt areas, as there is a lot of track clearing to do before that's possible. Once the spring fires have come to an end and the summer rains have begun, we can start to evaluate the success of landscape-scale fire management activities.

The impact of wildfires will also be taken into account in our future fire management plans.

Carnarvon Station Reserve is just one of many properties affected by this wildfire in the region. A further 300 000 ha of country south of Carnarvon have also been affected, a figure that emphasises the scale and nature of fire management in this environment.

The photos of the effects of wildfire remind us of the need to continue active fire management, especially following long wet seasons, which dramatically increase the fuel loads.

Staff members Murray Haseler, Dave Whitelaw, Cathy Zwick and Chris Wilson all contributed to this article.

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