The West MacDonnell Ranges have now been ravaged by fire for the third time in two decades: Fire scientist Peter Latz (pictured) says the NT Government isn't spending enough money on precautionary burns during the winter, leaving a catastrophic fuel load for the hot months. ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
The big country we live in turns into a monster when it burns, thumbing its nose at our feeble efforts to regain the upper hand.
It's the more agonising when the cause is human stupidity, carelessness or malice, as appears to have been the case a few days ago when part of the West MacDonnell National park, our greatest tourism asset, was turned into cinder.
An area of about 40 square kilometers was burned.
One blaze was started by the roadside near Redbank Gorge.
Another, ignited in dozens of spots for some 30 kilometers on the Glen Helen to Alice Springs road, was lit by sparks from a car driven on its rims.ERWIN CHLANDA reports.
ABOVE: The Finke River (foreground) stopped the bushfire just short of a popular bush camp, and the Glen Helen Resort. Mount Sonder is in the background, charred bushland in the middle ground. LEFT: A curry wattle re-grows after a bushfire in the MacDonnell Ranges, near Ormiston.
Mayor Damien Ryan and Chief Minister Paul Henderson got it very wrong when they claimed in media statements that the fires this week on Bond Springs and Undoolya cattle stations caused slight damage only.
Station people were "out there constantly" during daylight hours fighting the blaze, says Jan Heaslip, of Bond Springs.
She described the fires as horrendous, destroying feed, fences and water pipes worth $10,000.
There were also costs for a bulldozer and a helicopter.
Her husband, Grant, kept an aerial survey on the blaze in the station's Cessna, directing firefighters.
The station crews were joined by Bushfires Council crews.
Mrs Heaslip says she's not asking for sympathy, but Mr Ryan and Mr Henderson should acknowledge the extent of the drama and the effort of the firefighters.
Had it not been for them the blaze could well have spread into the Telegraph Station reserve or the town itself.
There has been a massive increase in the number of volunteer bushfire fighters in Alice Springs.
"Vollies" captain Shawn O'Toole says until earlier this year there were about five or six volunteers. Now there are about 40, taking part in training.
Meanwhile warmer weather and winds are creating dangerous fire conditions although Grant Allan, of Bushfires NT, says close to three quarters of the town's periphery are secure now because recent blazes have already consumed the extraordinarily high fuel load there.
And the Department of Lands and Planning says it will not prosecute for a loading infringement of a truck driver taking a grader to a blaze north of town to stop a fire advancing towards buildings in a quarry.
The department has not yet responded to questions from Alice Springs News Online about any liability the government may have for fires starting along roads it has responsibility for, and that may enter pastoral land, causing losses of fodder, man-hours fighting the fires and expenses for the use of graders and possible damage to them.
Members of the Hayes pastoral family say of the multitude of fires they had to fight this year, all but one had come from public roads. ERWIN CHLANDA reports. Picturedgetting the low-down from Shawn O'Toole (second from left) on the pump mounted on an "operational vehicle" are "vollies" (from left) Diane Chanut, Wayne Phillips, Alan Leahy, Katherine Hastie and Nikolas Sestokas.