A surge in grassfire activity sparked by dry and blustery conditions has provided a sharp reminder for landholders not yet prepared with fire breaks to make fire-preparations a priority.
High fuel loads created by a run of good seasons have led to predictions that this year’s spring/summer fire season will be one of the worst in recent years.
In New South Wales the Rural Fire Service reported yesterday that more than 100 controlled and uncontrolled fires were burning across the State, many sparked by dry lightning storms in dried-out areas of the inland.
The Queensland Rural Fire Service yesterday reported it was dealing with more than 65 fires throughout most areas of the State.
Near Mount Garnet on the edge of the Atherton Tableland in north-eastern Queensland, a large blaze, believed to have been started when hunters lost control of a campfire, burnt out large areas of grass country across at least five properties before it was brought under control late last week.
About 12,000 hectares of former Cattle Council of Australia president Greg Brown’s 20,000 hectare cattle property Meadowbank was burned, including around 250 hectares of recently shooting leucaena, which had been earmarked to grow out bullocks over the summer.
The Browns and several nearby landholders and property employees fought the fast moving fires across several days last week, using heavy machinery to block new fronts where possible.
Mr Brown said that despite having spent four days building about 30km of fire breaks on Meadowbank last month, they had still not done enough to prevent the fire from spreading.
He said that after a long run of years where fire threats were minimal, an element of complacency had crept in.
“I think people aren’t prepared to put machinery in until it’s too late,” he said. “You can’t fight a fire without machinery, you need breaks.”
AgForce northern region manager Paul Burke said that through the Upper Burdekin and west to Charters Towers where Cyclone Yasi caused mass destruction of trees and fences in February 2011, a lot of landholders had not had the chance to rebuild the fire breaks that they previously had.
“There is a fair bit of fuel on the ground and there is also a fair bit of debris still lying around,” Mr Burke said.
“Another issue in a lot of that country, and something that was identified by the rural fire service, especially in some of the Gulf country, is that we have had drought after drought after drought, and now we’ve had good seasons, a lot of the skills have been lost in terms of fire mitigation.”
A combination of high winds and dry conditions in coming days is expected to increase the fire danger across large parts of inland Australia for the remainder of this week.
HAVE YOUR SAY