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HomeUncategorizedFirebug: 3 blazes in Pitchi Richi Sanctuary

Firebug: 3 blazes in Pitchi Richi Sanctuary

By ERWIN CHLANDA

Pitchi Richi Sanctuary was burnt out yesterday as fire ripped through most of the property from north to south.

Historian Alex Nelson, who is a resident at the historic tourist attraction, says there were no major infrastructure losses although Chapman’s House suffered minor fire damage.

The old entry station was saved and the cottage was unaffected.

“Some Ricketts sculptures were scorched but I observed no other damage,” says Mr Nelson, who took the photos on this page.

He says it is clear that the first blaze the night before was deliberately lit but the following two may have been re-ignitions.

“Firies were still on site after about five hours.”

Heritage Alice Springs “has to take a long hard look at itself as it seems the management of the site is not adequate.

“The major problem is the failure to control buffel.”

Mr Nelson says in the third blaze buildings on the sanctuary, as well as neighbouring dwellings had “very narrow escapes all ’round”.

IMAGES: Chapman’s House on fire at rear. A Ricketts’ sculpture was “cooked” but not harmed. Ricketts’ amphitheatre was undamaged.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The fire story points to existential threats to the people of Alice Springs.
    Bit of a question now for Alex and others interested about how to handle the buffel as it shoots back after the fires.
    Mattocking it out will be slow and difficult. Poisoning it might be an opportunity?
    Buffel surges back post fire as evidenced along the Todd, the South Road and Colonel Rose Drive. Before long the same fire threat returns while many trees and shrubs and ultimately dwellings won’t.

  2. @ Bruce Simmons. Thank you for your interest in the buffel issue at Pitchi Richi and the broader town area.
    The management committee of Heritage Alice Springs Inc (the local non-profit heritage group managing the conservation of the Pitchi Richi Sanctuary) has already initiated a poisoning program to deal with the new buffel now sprouting on the property, work that is close to being completed.
    Spraying new growth before the buffel begins producing seed is part of our larger fire management plan for the place, which includes clearing and removing buffel from around built structures, significant trees and the sculptures; creating a 6-metre wide fire break along perimeter fence lines; and installing a firefighting system with firehose reels to cover the whole of the property.
    But for the quick action of the NT Fire Service in saving the main building (Chapman House, as pictured in the article), our association would have seen hundreds of volunteer hours, not to mention $160,000 worth of NT Heritage grants that have funded essential repairs and upgrading of the building over the last ten years, go up in smoke.
    Our management committee foresaw the fire risk mid-last year and, in the months leading up to the fire, instigated measures that saw volunteers digging up buffel to 40% of the property, as well as slashing underneath most of the high value trees / sculptures and creating an internal circuit track / break. Largely as a result of this action, all of the sculptures and most of the buildings were left unaffected by the fire.
    Chapman House is a vital part of our conservation work at Pitchi Richi, as it will allow us to accommodate backpacker volunteers and a works co-ordinator on site, a formula which was used so successfully in developing the Transport Hall of Fame.
    Heritage Alice Springs has also initiated a fund-raising drive, approaching local businesses and individuals interested in seeing Pitchi Richi developed to the point where it can be re-opened to the visiting public as one of our town’s unique tourist attractions.

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