Just before Easter, DELWP decided to burn a 521 ha area between Tames Rd. and Gerars Tk., in order … “To develop fuel reduced areas of sufficient width and continuity to reduce the spread of bushfire.” The area was logged many decades ago and hasn’t had a fire since. It’s really just starting to recover. It’s not that this bush was knee-deep in branches, litter and logs, or choking in shrubbery. In fact, parts of the bush that didn’t burnt suggest that ‘fuel’ build-up wasn’t particularly noteworthy.
For the benefit of those of you that haven’t been to the area post-burn, have a look at the photos below. We only walked for about 1.5 km along the burn’s eastern edge, but the damage was extensive.
As well as burning the forest, DELWP put in extensive control lines, to manage the extent of the fire, sometimes straight across healthy, beautiful creeks. Decide for yourself if the goal of fuel reduction has been achieved in this part of the burn and whether it’s worth the environmental cost, not to mention the financial cost to taxpayers.
These burns aren’t meant to burn down through gullies or into rock outcrops, but this one clearly did, suggesting conditions were still too dry and the fire too hot, at least in this area.
Most of the smooth-barked eucalypts in this part of the forest have been badly burnt and many may take years to recover, or even die from their injuries. As mentioned in the previous post, young Blue Gums and Manna Gums (or White Gums as they are also known) are easily damaged and killed when the litter that builds up at their bases, burns.
This burn clearly burnt away all the litter, grass, bracken-fern, branches and logs that were on the ground, leaving bare, burnt ground – I wonder when the next heavy rain is due and what water quality will be like downstream? From a fuel reduction perspective, the question is, how quickly will the fuel build up again after the fire? Notwithstanding the enormous amount of trees that have already fallen (serious build up of coarse fuel), the only way to be sure is to come back at regular intervals over the next few years and observe.
The rocky area shown above is part of a Special Protection Zone, where fire should only be “Low intensity withing tolerable fire intervals to protect hollow-bearing trees” (DELWP 2012). What do you think – a success?
Part of the reason for this burn is the target to burn 5% of public land in Victoria annually – that’s 390,000 ha every year (& bush fires don’t count!). The real questions that need answering are:
- Was there a real need to reduce fuel loads in this forest?
- Has the outcome been achieved i.e. will fuel loads over the next few decades be less than they were before the burn?
- Has the outcome justified the obvious damage that the burn has done to this forest, eg serious loss of hollow-bearing trees, significant amount of post-burn tree-fall, burning out high conservation value areas, degrading in-stream water quality?
In some places neither the grass nor the shrubs were burnt, but the timber was still bone dry. Though the fire traveled slowly is managed to kill and burn many, many habitat trees. This is perhaps the most destructive aspect of this planned burn, and one that will take centuries of good management to repair.