Big blaze rages in grassland

Big blaze rages in grassland

10 September 2008

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Australia — A plane dumped tens of thousands of litres of water on an intense fire that threatened Top End cattle farms yesterday.

The aircraft bombarded the blaze, dropping 3000 litres of water every 10 minutes, as it ripped through a vacant privately-owned property plagued with highly flammable gamba grass.

INFERNO: Gamba grass fires burn up to eight times hotter than fires containing native grasses. Picture: Brad Fleet

On the ground, four Bushfires NT firefighters and three volunteers battled the inferno by backburning.

The fire began at the large property along the Stuart Highway, about 5km north of Adelaide River, about 1.30pm yesterday.

Batchelor Police guided traffic through the area as thick smoke covered the highway, cutting visibility to extremely low levels.

Bushfires NT director Steve Sutton said it was a “big effort” to control the blaze, as they feared it would spread to neighbouring properties, which had homes and herds of cattle on them.

“There is a very thick gamba infestation on this property, which has caused quite an intense blaze,” he said.

“The introduced pasture fuels fires up to eight times hotter than natural fires – that is why we called in for aerial bombardment.

“We have to hit them as hard as we can, to get them under control as quick as we can.”

Mr Sutton said the fire was under control and extinguished by 4.30pm. He said it was not yet known what caused it.

The Northern Territory News told last month how environmentalists were warning the NT would have more bushfires and lose native vegetation if it doesn’t ban gamba grass.

The pasture is banned in all Australian states, but not the NT, where it is planted as cattle feed.

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