Spare a thought
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Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Spare a thought on 12/11/2006 17:04:17 MST Print View

As the Northern Hemisphere moves into winter the southern moves into summer. Australia is experiencing a long drought, 5 years is one persons comment, but now there are massive bush fires in Victoria and Tasmania these fires are perhaps part of the natural eco system (many were started by lightning) but they will impact on hikers and the country in which they hike for a number of years. Many high country huts/shelters were destroyed in the last fires and have yet to be replaced. And for those who may have watched in awe “The Man from Snowy River” will be saddened to know that the hut depicted in that movie “Craigs Hut” was destroyed by fire over the weekend.

As they say fire is a good servant but a bad master

ROBERT TANGEN
(RobertM2S) - M

Locale: Lake Tahoe
Australia burns on 12/11/2006 17:53:33 MST Print View

Are you having the same debate that America had about whether to let a lot of the natural fires burn on a bit in order to purge the fire-prone undergrowth, as opposed to quickly stomping on every fire, thus allowing the undergrowth to build up until when it does burn, it is a catastrophic burn?

Roger B
(rogerb) - MLife

Locale: Here and there
Re: Australia burns on 12/11/2006 18:01:30 MST Print View

A good question, I think that these days the only concern is "personal property" in this case many of the fires are in the bush and as a consequence the emphasis is on containment. The bushfire cycle is a natural part of life in Oz and the Australian Aboriginals used it as part of their land management schemes way before europeans landed in Oz.

The issue is that it significantly affects hiking (bushwalking in the aussie vernacular) in the short term and damages hiking shelters that may have been around for many years and may not be replaced because they were built by the mountain cattleman who now have no ownership of these huts.

b d
(bdavis) - F

Locale: Mt. Lassen - Shasta, N. Cal.
Re: Australia burns on 12/11/2006 21:34:43 MST Print View

My daughter works for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; she's a wildland firefighter. Apparently, from what she has said, they work to put out all fires. Sometimes they need to let them burn because they cannot contain them safely, given wind, air temperature, humidity, kind of material burning, heat, and terrain issues. When structures are involved, like homes, the US Forest Service may not be as ready to protect them as the CDF and may not be as trained in that kind of firefighting, i.e. structure fires. But their first issue is to save the lives of the firefighters.

What is being done in the mountainous area where I live is called "prescribed burns" during the proper weather conditions (sometimes and hopefully) to control the downed wood, undergrowth, etc. -- called "fuel load" here. They burn when the air temperature, humidity, and overall conditions are supposed to prevent a fast burning, out of control, "crown" fire which travels through the tops of the trees.

Apparently the new wildland management technique of prescribed burns really got a boost after the big Yellowstone fire a few years back. It burned uncontrolled and wild because of the built up undergrowth.

That all said, we just had a major fire to the west of us that burned for like 2 months and was huge because they couldn't get equipment and personnel in safely to the rugged mountainous area and the rains finally put it out this fall. The firefighers, both state and US did control the edges where they could.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Australia burns on 12/12/2006 02:40:08 MST Print View

> I think that these days the only concern is "personal property" in this case many of the fires are in the bush and as a consequence the emphasis is on containment. The bushfire cycle is a natural part of life in Oz and the Australian Aboriginals used it as part of their land management schemes way before europeans landed in Oz.

It is a little more complex than it seems.

What we are seeing these days is too many too frequent fires - many of which are carelessness or arson, with the consequent loss of biodiversity. Also, the effects of global warming are creating, or assisting, a significant increase in the overall dryness and hence number and severity of the fires.

Another issue which is now rumbling is fire management. Control over National Parks leaves the Parks Service when there's a fire and goes entirely to the Rural Fire Service. The bureaucrats at the top of the RFS seem to attach ZERO value to the National Park and infinite value to every holiday shack. They see every wildfire as an opportunity to burn off the whole area. Well, that's what has happened in the Blue Mts near Sydney. They turned a couple of small fires into a control burn of about 6,000 hectares over the entire area.

Yeah, I'm sore.

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
bushfires on 12/12/2006 04:50:06 MST Print View

I left Sydney a few years ago for the country, far south coast of New South Wales. Now I live in a shed on my 5 acres surounded by dairy farms but lots of forest within spitting distance. If that goes up I'll be safe but it'll be scary. The drought has been going on for 5 years which is bad but my rainfall this year has been the worse ! Just a little above half the yearly average. If next year the rainfall is just poor instead of bad, I'll be happy.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Australia burns on 12/13/2006 06:22:59 MST Print View

>The issue is that it significantly affects hiking
>(bushwalking in the aussie vernacular) in the short term
>and damages hiking shelters that may have been around for
>many years and may not be replaced because they were
>built by the mountain cattleman who now have no ownership
>of these huts.

Roger,

This sounds quite a lot like the situation in Schotland. Due to the Highland clearances in the 18th and 19 th century there are many abbondoned little buildings (crofts) throughout the higlands. In the 1970's several hillwalkers started restoring some frequently used huts. Now there are 100+ so called bothies throughout the higlands that can be a very welcome site after bogsloshing on a dreich day.

Maybe this is the time to start such an organisation in Australia?

http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Australia burns on 12/14/2006 02:43:43 MST Print View

Hi Einstein ...
> This sounds quite a lot like the situation in Schotland. Due to the Highland clearances in the 18th and 19 th century there are many abbondoned little buildings (crofts) throughout the higlands. In the 1970's several hillwalkers started restoring some frequently used huts. Now there are 100+ so called bothies throughout the higlands that can be a very welcome site after bogsloshing on a dreich day.
Maybe this is the time to start such an organisation in Australia?
http://www.mountainbothies.org.uk/

A good point. Btw: I am well aware of mountain bothies - I have been walking in the UK, inc Scotland. Must get back there soon.

We only have cattlemens huts in the high Alpine country, and rather few of them. They were built as temporary shelters (pre-1900 sometimes), are made of local timber, and burn well. We have many bushfires (as mentioned). A volunteer association called Kosciusko Huts Ass'n has been trying to look after them for many years in NSW , and there is a similar body in Victoria. Recently the National Parks Service has admitted they have historical and cultural value and so they are now being protected. (But NOT expanded.)

That area of Australia is small relative to the rest of the country, so the number of huts is small. Yes, I do know many of them.

But I take a tent. The huts are small, uncomfortable, stuffed full of novices in summer and during the snow season too, and are usually inhabited by very active and noisy native bush rats who toboggan over your sleeping bag at night. (Honest!) But they are good for morning tea or lunch in bad weather (which happens ...)