Gone are the days when landowners had to rely on "sniffing the breeze" in fire season – yet this year nearly half of Central Australia burned.
The North Australian Fire Information website (NAFI) has completely changed what's possible, according to Lyndee Severin from Curtin Springs Station. In the narrow window of opportunity for preventive burning at Curtin Springs this year, using NAFI's live fire maps meant they could adjust their plans "on a half day basis". Mrs Severin spoke with feeling at Tuesday's fire management seminar at the Desert Knowledge Precinct, featuring a presentation by fire scientist, Grant Allan. Mrs Severin said as pastoralists they were well aware of the fire threat represented by the massive build up of vegetation following above average rains: "We absolutely knew what was goign to happen."
Mr Allan's core message was that fire is an essential component of the Central Australian landscape and has to be used as a management tool consistently. Leaving control burning until there is a large build-up of fuel can be leaving it until too late, he said.
This year almost 40% of the southern half of the NT has burned. A large proportion of that was caused by wildfire in the months August to October, as well as by control burns getting out of hand, despite the best of intentions. Maps showing the intense and relentless progress of the fires over a large swathe of country, from the Simpson in the south-east to the Tanami in the north-west, brought a shocked gasp from the seminar audience.
KIERAN FINNANE reports.
Pictured: Top – The Centre burns. Photo byOLIVER ECLIPSE. Above left – Pastoralists Ashley and Lyndee Severin at the seminar. Right – Fire scientist Grant Allan .