Australia — A mysterious fire which has been burning for months under a dry lake in far-western NSW is seemingly thwarting attempts to put it out.
Drivers have reported seeing smoke along a lakebed outside Wilcannia and firefighters, who put the fire out on an almost-weekly basis, are fed up with the eternal flame.
‘We thought we had it out about a month ago and just in the last couple of days with some wind, it’s popped back up,’ incident controller Chris Favelle told AAP.
Mr Favelle says he suspects organic material is fuelling the fire.
‘There’s a little bit of water way out in the middle but it’s basically dry, and along the edge, which would have once been the shore 1000 years ago, there’s a build-up of organic matter, like sticks and leaves, a bit like peat.’
The peat-like matter can burn for a long time but what’s baffling the Rural Fire Service is the way the fire dodges all attempts at snuffing it out.
‘They get called once a day to put this fire out and they get there and there’s nothing,’ he said.
‘We’ve tried all sorts of things. We’ve tried flooding the area, we’ve tried digging it up, we’ve tried putting trenches around it, all to no avail – it keeps sneaking around our attempts to stop it.’
He said there is no threat to the community from the fire, which is in a bare area.
Firefighters estimate it might cover a hectare underground but say they have no real way of knowing the exact size of the fire. 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.