Bushfire in Nilgen Nature Reserve

Bushfire in Nilgen Nature Reserve

07 April 2011

published by www.centraladvocate.com.au

Australia — HEAT and smoke were not the only problems for fire crews tackling a bushfire in Nilgen Nature Reserve north of Lancelin since Wednesday, March 30.

Part of the reserve and the adjoining Defence Training Area to the north are riddled with unexploded ordnance (UXOs), limiting access for fire crews, trucks and bulldozers.

UXOs are explosive weapons that have not gone off and are still at risk of detonating.

One of the Department of Environ-ment and Conservation (DEC)’s incident controllers based in Geraldton Anthony Desmond said it meant fire crews had to stay on known tracks because of safety concerns.

“Containing bushfires in coastal heathland isn’t easy at the best of times but the presence of ‘hidden dangers’ means we have to be very careful when it comes to putting in containment lines,” he said.

“We actually did have a number of reports of UXOs exploding within the fire although fortunately not near any fire crews.”

The fire started on Wednesday afternoon and burnt through 5100 hectares.

It was the second major fire in the reserve and in the training area in the past 12 months.

“The low fuels as a result of last year’s fire were especially useful as we could allow the fire to run north knowing that it would hit the fire scar,” Mr Desmond said.

“It also meant we could concentrate on preventing the fire from jumping Indian Ocean Drive by using three fixed-wing water bombers to support ground crews.”

Southerly and easterly winds meant the fire didn’t threaten private property in Ocean Farms Estate to the south-east of the fire.

“One of our major tactics was to light up along an established track along the southern edge and then ‘tie’ the fire into the previously burnt area,” Mr Desmond said.

Blaze: A water bomber in action so that bushfire in the
Nilgen Nature Reserve north of Lancelin in the Gingin Shire
doesn’t cross Indian Ocean Drive.

DEC mobilised part of one of its pre-formed incident management teams as well as 10 trucks and machinery from its south-west forest regions.

In all, more than 80 staff from DEC and the Forest Products Commission were involved along with support from local volunteer bushfire brigades and the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA).

DEC also used its mobile communications unit and other facilities to establish an incident control centre at the fire.

“Having facilities such as these gives us access to satellite broadband internet, phones, mapping equipment and catering facilities,” Mr Desmond said.

“It allows us to set up as close to the fire as possible.

“It is much more efficient than trying to run a fire from the nearest district office that was 75 kilometres away in Jurien.”

Mr Desmond said this week’s fire was the fourth fire in two weeks for DEC’s Mid West crews.

“DEC certainly appreciates the support of the local volunteer brigades, FPC, FESA, the police and Main Roads and their contractors,” he said.

The fire started in an area near a truck bay and the Nilgen lookout next to the Indian Ocean Drive.

The cause is suspicious and an investigation is under way.

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