The term unprecedented has been applied to almost every aspect of the fire season across the entire nation.
It has been shocking, tragic and devastating – and it is not over. But the terrible truth is that we have seen such trauma again and again, from Black Saturday in 2009 to Ash Wednesday in 1983, from Black Tuesday in 1967 to Black Friday in 1939, and further back to Black Thursday in 1851. Millions of hectares burned, thousands of properties destroyed, dozens of lives lost.
We have had disasters where more properties have been lost, more area has burned and six times as many people have been killed. We have been told the fires started earlier than ever but spring and early summer is the usual fire season in northern NSW and Queensland, and, for example, we know there were widespread fires in southeast Queensland in the winter of 1946.
Claims by climate scientist Joelle Gergis that rainforests in Lamington National Park were burning for the first time were disproved by reports from the spring of 1951 about fire taking out “2000 acres of thick rainforest country” in the park.
Without adequate management and fire reduction burn offs, the ferocity of Australia’s fires will continue to incur an “exponential effect” to the point “no firefighting force known to man” can stop them, says bushfire specialist Roger Underwood, supported by David Packham.
Brian, you were the first person who told me and then I spoke to Vic Jurskis about it and scientist David Packham. You are the first person who said to me the intensity of these fires burns the humus content in the soil right down to the mineral layer and you then told me that it will rain because we have the flooding rains after the droughts and that topsoil is washed away and floods into the creeks and clogs them up. It’s absolute degradation.
I mean once upon a time, a lot of our areas of our national parks used to be a forested country and the sawmillers had a sustainable industry and they used to manage the bush they used to do a lot of the hazard reduction burning, people tracks open and because they value timber, timber was important. Now, we’ve closed them all the forest industry down virtually.
We’ve locked up the parks we don’t let people into them. We’ve closed all the trails off and our timber just gets burnt and wasted and meanwhile overseas they’re cutting down rainforests to supply Australia with timber. I mean how crazy is that?
It appears that scientific bush fire experts have been warning for several years that a catastrophe would be coming and yet these warnings have not been heeded by governments or their bureaucratic officials. Why is that, and what does it tell us about Australian society? John Adams and Martin North discuss. Is this also true of impending financial disaster?
Owners say the property was saved by the traditional Indigenous technique of cultural burning conducted on their land three years ago.
Aboriginal cultural fire practitioner Dennis Barber led a series of cultural burns on six hectares of bushland at Ngurrumpaa in 2015 and 2016 – the first burns in the area since a wildfire swept through in 1994.