A “monster” fire with a 140km front in the Barkly region has burned through 10,000 square kilometres of pastoral country since starting last Tuesday.
The uncontrolled blaze has destroyed grass, fences and water infrastructure in an area four-times the size of the Australian Capital Territory affecting several Barkly cattle stations.
Landholders and their staff have been fighting fires and making preparations to protect livestock from further fronts breaking out, but strong changing winds are making the vast blaze difficult to control.
“It is a monster fire and it is starting other fires,” Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association CEO Will Evans said.
Backburning was difficult because strong winds were blowing in the wrong direction, he said, noting it has now jumped two highways.
There are also fears the front could threaten the town of Tennant Creek in coming days, with a “watch-and-act warning” now in place for the town.
The Australian Defence Force has been deployed today to help assist firefighting efforts.
It was too early too tell if cattle have been lost, Mr Evans told Beef Central .
“It has probably 10 years since we have seen something like this,” he said.
Winds are expected to increase the fire danger over the next few days.
WA farm group calls for stricter penalties on lighting fires
Meanwhile pastoralists in Western Australian are calling for stricter penalties and greater enforcement for individuals lighting out of season fires.
WA’s Pastoralists and Graziers Association has reported that fires have beeen deliberately lit including in the East Kimberley where, for weeks, over 17,000 hectares of grassland has been burnt because of arson.
PGA president Tony Seabrook said that of the hundreds of out of season fires that are deliberately lit across the Kimberley each year, the majority are done by traditional owners in breach of Indigenous Land Use Agreements.
“The simple fact is that any individual, regardless of whether they are a traditional owner or not, who lights an out of season fire is committing arson and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Mr Seabrook said.
“Excuses such as ‘it’s our country, we can do what we like’, or ‘we are burning to collect food’, are not relevant in today’s modern outback, and are in direct violation of the ILUA between the native title groups and the station which allows traditional owners access to country.
“It is illegal,” Mr Seabrook said, “and should be treated as such by the police, the government and the community.”
“When fires are deliberately lit out of season, they pose a severe threat to lives and communities, and place a great burden on station owners who are spending their time, energy, and equipment on fighting these fires instead of running a cattle enterprise.
“It is time the Government and the police hold these arsonists in the Kimberley to the same accountability as those in the south of the State.”