Another great river tree goes up in flames


Another grand old river red gum was set ablaze by a camp fire in the Todd River bed near the east bank and directly across from Parsons Street.
I noticed the smoke this morning about 10:45am and took my first lot of photos about 11am.
I came back about two hours later. Fieries turned up while I was there.
Judging by the tape around the tree they had been there earlier but someone must have called them about it (possibly Glen Auricht to whom I had shown some of the first photos).
They gave the tree a squirt of water but it was clearly too late to do anything effective. This was confirmed when I took another look at 5pm and the unfortunate tree is well alight inside the main trunk and up into the canopy.
It’s likely to collapse during this evening or tonight. Not long after I finished taking the last photos a police motorcyclist passed me by patrolling the Todd – have to say it’s the first time I’ve seen that for awhile.
This is the third large old tree damaged or destroyed by fire in the bed of the Todd River adjacent to the CBD that I’ve noticed this season.
There has been extensive camping happening in the Todd in recent weeks, as evidenced by the numerous abandoned camp fires.
Clearly the relevant authorities have dropped their guard and, as a consequence, the Todd is suffering these sad and completely unnecessary losses. Very poor, simply not good enough.






  1. I agree with you Alex that the loss of these ancient trees to fires is a tragedy. I wish we could provide safe housing and warmth so our heritage is not lost for winter warmth and cooking.

  2. An abandoned camp fire or some other form of human activity may be what started this fire, but as said in the many other stories on this topic over the years, the spread of couch grass around and into the base of the trunks of these trees is the reason fire takes hold and destroy the trees from the inside of the hollow trunk.

  3. @ Bob Taylor (Posted August 14, 2019 at 8:38 am): In this case grass wasn’t the problem, Bob, as even hard up against the trunk of the tree I noticed that none of it was burnt.
    What seems to have happened was that a campfire was lit under one of the old exposed support roots of the tree and it was from this source that the flames spread into the trunk.
    The roots in turn have been exposed by erosion exacerbated by the lowering of the river bed over a decade ago for flood mitigation.
    The lowering of the river bed has also enabled campers to conceal themselves better from view. Unless the river bed is physically patrolled, no-one else knows they are there.

  4. @ Rosalie: I agree with all of your comments however unfortunately some people prefer to camp in the sand than in any dwelling.
    Perhaps the location of the fire was not considered at the time. It was most likely that the campers thought the tree would provide some day shade, shelter and maybe wind protection.
    I do hope the fire was for warmth and was not a deliberate act of vandalism. If they burned part of the actual tree and not used loose wood near or under the tree then I would call that action vandalism. If they burned loose wood near or under the tree then obviously it wasn’t a very smart idea.
    I also agree with what Alex said – the fact the riverbed has been lowered doesn’t help either. Unless someone or a group of people physically go down into the river bed to check where fires are lit, then there really can’t be much done from dusk to dawn.
    Lightning up the river isn’t the answer either as wildlife will be confused from light pollution.
    I guess people just need to learn to become better environmental stewards.
    Understand that littering and fires too close or under trees destroy the home of wildlife and unlike shrubs, trees take decades to be fully recover from fire.

  5. Thank you Alex for your explanation of how this fire started.
    My comment below was a general comment in nature and based on historical observations and experience. However I agree with your assessment of how this fire started and the underlying human intervention in the river that led to this and other trees being made vulnerable to any ignition source.
    The Todd River and all dry inland waterways are finely balanced eco systems that do not react well to modern human meddling and any future human intervention to facilitate flow, create levies or to beautify the banks will need to be expertly managed, if at all.

  6. Quite a few years ago a fire was deliberately lit (eastern end, the culprit was caught) along Ross River and burned its way towards the rear of the race course.
    Most of the large old gums were destroyed but were also homes to our beautiful black cockies – for months after on dusk you could hear the stress when they came to their trees and were still confused as nesting sites were gone.
    It’s something I will never forget, eventually they moved on but I miss them when they had their trees, their carry ons for the best spot until they settled for the night.

  7. @ Karen (Posted August 21, 2019 at 2:04 pm): Hi Karen, I presume you mean the wildfire on the Ross Highway side of Todd River in 2002, as I recall?
    That was a very damaging conflagration fuelled by buffel grass that had grown rampant during the wet years of 2000-01.
    It came very close to rural properties next to the river.
    As it happened, I took photos of that area several times prior to the wildfire so was able to get contrasting before and after shots that demonstrated the severity of that particular blaze.
    There were a number of other deliberately lit fires at the time such as along Colonel Rose Drive, and the damage remains clearly visible to this day.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here