UPDATE, Friday 22 September, 12.55pm: A prompt phone call to 000 and effective action by the fire brigade looks to have saved this tree. See bottom for full story.
Our photos were taken yesterday at midday as the call was being made to 000. Passers-by had stopped when they saw smoke coming out of the hollows of this river giant, undoubtedly hundreds of years old.
Within minutes flames were visible, first in one hollow, then the other.
There appeared to have been a grass fire around the tree which had been put out, but was starting to take hold again.
This follows an unprecedented loss of mature trees to apparent arson attacks over recent months that has fire-fighters and local citizen groups banding together to come up with strategies to save our trees.
These include reducing buffel grass in their vicinity as a protective measure and new fire-fighting techniques to combat the chimney effect of flames taking hold in the hollows.
Meanwhile, Member for Namatjira Chansey Paech has invited Expressions of Interest from community members to join the Lhere Mparntwe (leer-ra m-barn-twa) Working Group.
“Lhere Mparntwe is the name given by the local Arrernte people for the iconic Todd River, which is home to large, mature red gums that are listed as Sacred Sites,” Mr Paech said.
“These trees are among the first jewels that tourists notice as they drive into Alice Springs.
“Sadly, a large number of (deliberate and illegally lit) grass fires within the Todd River and Charles River have destroyed these trees, some believed to be about 500 years old.
“A community response is now needed to what is a growing community problem. That’s why this Working Group has been created, bringing key stakeholders and community members together who will advise Government on how to best manage the natural resources within the Todd River and its immediate catchment, including the Charles River.
“I invite anyone with a passion for the protection of the Todd River to submit an EOI so they can contribute their expertise to the Working Group.”
Up to four community members of the Working Group and a Chairperson will be appointed by the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources to promote culturally respectful care of these rivers, with at least one community member being an Aboriginal person able to speak about, and advise on, Arrernte cultural values.
Written EOIs should demonstrate the contribution that the nominee can make to the Working Group and should be directed to:
Lhere Mparntwe (Todd River) Working Group Secretariat
PO Box 1120 Alice Springs NT 0870
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE, Friday 22 September, 12.55pm:
A prompt phone call to 000 and effective action by the fire brigade looks to have saved this tree.
The call was made by Candice Appleby who just happened to be driving by and who also happens to be the Significant Tree Officer with Land for Wildlife. After calling she stayed on to see what would happen.
She says the firies arrived about 25 minutes after the call. First they put out the grass fire around the tree, then they poured a lot of water into the hollows from above and, using a special device, also introduced water from a hollow at the base of the tree.
Driving by today at about 11am, there was no smoke coming from the hollows of the tree.
Station Officer Adrian Sgarbossa said the device used is something that they have made up themselves – a long metal rod with a fitting at the end with lots of holes. This allows water to be fed up through the basal hollow into the trunk and squirted in all directions.
Ms Appleby calls on anyone seeing fires, especially in the Todd, to call 000. Don’t be complacent, and assume someone else will have made the call, she urges.
Meanwhile, the best protection from fire for trees is to reduce the buffel grass growing around them, which local landcare groups are dedicating themselves to and could always do with more volunteers.
As part of her job Ms Appleby maintains a Significant Tree Register for the Northern Territory. There are 29 Significant Trees listed for Central Australia and 220 Territory-wide. The nomination process is active and applies not only to native trees: there are multiple characteristics considered including beauty and age, as well as cultural and historical meaning or association.
Find out more here.