Australia — GRAZING properties south of Jericho in Central West Queensland have again been hit by bushfires following electrical storms with little rain passing through on Thursday and Saturday afternoons.
Local landholder Robyn Adams said a lightening strike in wattle country in Joycedale on Thursday evening ignited a blaze that was discovered Friday afternoon.
“It quickly burnt south west jumping well cleared roads and the old Blackall Jericho railway track,” Mrs Adams said.
“Over 20 volunteer fire fighters worked through the night and next day, bringing the blaze under control early Saturday evening.”
The Narbethong house was protected and the backburning of the Jericho Blackall Road held its westward and northward spread. A power line recently cleared by Ergon was back burnt off to halt its aggressive southward advance.
“Over 40,000 acres were blackened across more than five properties – Lancevale, Stratford, Narbethong, Dog Holes, Joycedale and others,” Mrs Adams said.
“A further electrical storm on Saturday afternoon started separate fires on Ryandale, Rosemont and Hiddenvale south west of Jericho.
“Exhausted crews supported by fresh volunteers then worked through Saturday night to bring these fresh blazes under control without loosing too many more acres.”
Ashley Adams of Goonadoo Brigade around Yalleroi came from the many days on the large Neverfail/ Helenvale/Sydenham/Winooka fire to effectively and quickly bring the Ryandale fire under control. Ian Coveney whod spent days on surrounding fires backburning and grading then had to fight his own Rosemont fire through Saturday night and Sunday.”
Mop-up burning continues to clear remaining internal wattle and spinifex patches, and patrols along the fire breaks monitor the containment of the dying fires.
There has been extensive damage to fences, lost pasture and melted poly pipes, troughs and tanks. However, at this stage there are no reported stock losses.
“These fresh 50,000 acres blackened over the four days, join whats now more than 50 grazing properties in the southern Desert Uplands that have a collective burnout in excess of a 100,000 acres during the last fortnight,” Mrs Adams said.
“With graders, fire-fighters and backburners working day and night, many are now exhausted. Still, the monitoring the many kilometres of firebreaks with mop-up units must continue, as high early afternoon temperatures generate whirly winds and pipes that can too quickly carry ciders across these wide breaks on to unburnt areas and start the process all over again.
“Many of the volunteer brigade officers and fire fighters have now been fighting fires for up to 12 days, in at times quite stressful situations with walls of fire overcoming very wide breaks.
“The exhaustion issue is now compounded by the expected coming high temperatures and its inherent fire risk keeping them all on alert. Any afternoon thunder storms will be carefully watched for lightening strikes and then rising smoke.”
The NAFI (Northern Australian Fire Information) website is a now an integrated and critical warning and communication tool for these fires, with landholders accessing its hotspot mapping data 24/7.
“Lightening trails on the weatherzone radar site and its 18 hour loop are also essential viewing after the passing of a thunderstorm to see the locales, intensity and order of rain and lightening strikes,” Mrs Adams said.
“For this part of the Desert Uplands, the heavy body of native grasses from the previous good wet seasons now long and dry from the frosty cold winter has made for easy fire spread, good fuel and spectacular rising white plumes of smoke.
“Many of the areas recently torched are uncleared, thick with wattles and yellow jacket trees that burn hot and strong. Sometimes exploding on ignition, these fierce fast firestorms send enormous rolling black plumes heavenward.
“Some excessive breaks did not hold these firestorms, so property owners and fire brigade officers then urgently reconvened, and subsequent plans agreed. Forward breaks were widened with backburning of these and eventually they were bought under control.
“To date, these wildfires are not as bad as last years, with the fire activity not as extensive north of Jericho through the middle of the Desert Uplands.
“Also many of the areas being hit have had showers lately, so the subsoil moisture means the recovery of grasses and plants will be quicker. All are hoping for good soaking rains without electric energy to assist and promote the regenerative process.
“For those beef producers completely or substantially burnt out, their cattle are being mustered, moved off and where opportune sold.
“With that subsoil moisture, there will shortly be fresh green pick. Again, landholders need to be vigilant, proactive and strategic and ensure heavy grazing pressure on this new growth does not damage their pastures.
“Conversely, later grazing pressure is required in an attempt to reduce the fuel load of these unpalatable native grasses, in preparedness for a repetition with the following early summers dry electric storms. Meanwhile there are hundreds of kilometres of fencing to be replaced and repaired.” The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.