Photo above: Map of bushfires in Central Australia earlier this week. Bottom: Peter Latz, native grasses in the left of the photo; thick buffel on the other side of the fence.
Massive rains last year boosting exceptional plant growth made it inevitable that 2011 would be a major year for bushfires – but authorities are still gearing up to cope with them.
The fire west of Alice Springs is still burning out of control, but no longer in the immediate vicinity of the town.
Matt Braitling, from Mt Doreen Station, the chairman of Bushfire NT's regional council, says the fire fighting effort had to focus on protecting assets, including Aboriginal outstations at Bond Springs and the Golden Mile just west of the town, either side of Larapinta Drive leading to the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Meanwhile according to one of Central Australia's most eminent wildfire experts, botanist Peter Latz, the massive blaze last week burning right up to the western edge of Alice Springs is no surprise but came a bit earlier than expected.
The author of Bush Fires & Bush Tucker and The Flaming Desert says the fire will probably protect the town from a much worse one later in the year.
Dr Latz says the ferocity of the fire was caused mostly by buffel grass, introduced as a dust suppressant by the CSIRO decades ago, and now covering much of Central Australia.
While trees mostly survive the "cooler" flames of native grass, many were destroyed, including trees in the West MacDonnell national park: "Where there is thick buffel under the mulgas they are dead." ERWIN CHLANDA reports.