Firebugs, lightning burn 15,000 square kilometres

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

There were a number of deliberate ignitions, mainly on roadsides, however over the past week the majority of fires are the result of lightning strikes, according to Chief Fire Control Officer Tony Fuller.

On Friday we had at least 14 new fires as a result of lightning,” he says.

A number of staff from Bushfires NT are on a rolling secondment into Alice Springs.

“We have some volunteers from Darwin who are rolling through on deployment. Our Darwin office is running a skeleton crew now, supported by local Darwin volunteers as the weather threat in the Top End decreases.

“Our focus is now Central Australia,” says Mr Fuller.

“We have an enhanced presence of four NT fire staff and two volunteers on a weekly rotation to support Alice Springs.”

The number of Bushfires NT staff and volunteers fluctuates each day: “Our normal office of four staff is now staffed by anywhere between 10 and 20 staff depending on rotations.

Statistics by Rohan Fisher, CDU.

“All our fires are fought using a community response of all resources that are available at the time, this includes pastoralists, volunteers, staff, parks, police and so.”

No evacuations have been ordered by Bushfires NT but “some people may have self evacuated.

We asked Mr Fuller why no large water bombers are being used, and whether the four new 22,000 litre water tanks at the airport could be used to fill up the 15,000 litre bombers.

“They probably could,” says Mr Fuller. “But we don’t use 15,000 litre bombers and do not have any under contract.

“There is a national contract arrangement and aircraft are in high demand right across Australia.

“We have set the watering point up for use by the water bombers we use in Darwin and now here, using existing contractors.”

These aircraft carry only 3000 litres.

UPDATE November 15, 1pm.

CLC wants NT government to declare buffel grass a weed

The Central Land Council wants the government to take the “overdue step” of declaring buffel a weed, the “main fuel” of the bushfires burning all around Alice Springs. 

Elected members are feeling strongly “about the extremely destructive cultural, health and environmental impacts of this introduced species,” CLC general manager Josie Douglas says in a media release.

“On some days last week the air quality in Alice Springs was on par with some of the most polluted cities in the world.”

With an area five times the size of Tasmania already destroyed and more than 80% of the Territory predicted to burn this season, residents of remote towns and communities are facing threats “to our health, homes and critical infrastructure” as well as sacred sites.

Buffel is one of the main drivers of native species extinctions in Central Australia.

“Because it burns much hotter than native grasses it pushes our native plants and the animals that depend on them to the brink,” says Dr Douglas.

The CLC wants the NT government to follow the lead of South Australia, where the grass is already being managed as a weed.

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