Tasmania fires: First images of World Heritage Area devastation emerge, show signs of ‘system collapse

Tasmania fires: First images of World Heritage Area devastation emerge, show signs of ‘system collapse

31 January 2016

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia — Many fires continue to burn around the state, ignited by lightning strikes. Some are in remote areas including Tasmania’s Central Plateau, within the WHA.

Wilderness photographer and bushwalker Dan Broun has just returned from the Central Plateau.

Vision he filmed shows how the fires have raced through the area, which is home to unique alpine flora including pencil pines, king billy pines and cushion plants, some more than 1,000 years old.

Mr Broun walked four hours into the bushfire affected areas on Saturday.

“The scene is complete and utter devastation. There is kilometres of burnt ground, everything is dead,” he said.

He said small pockets of areas protected by rock escaped the fire.

“I also witnessed devastated wildlife; burnt wallabies, dead wombats and the like,” said Mr Broun.

The Lake Mackenzie fires have been burning in the Central Plateau for 11 days. About 11,000 hectares of WHA have been incinerated.

Some areas can recover from fire, while others, including the habitat of pencil pines, cannot.

“What I’m most keen about with my wildlife photography and this particular vision is that we de-myth this whole situation. These are unique and vulnerable plant communities,” he said.

“We need for people to understand that this is not a natural event.”

Ecologist Professor Jamie Kirkpatrick is also upset by the loss of alpine flora.

“They’re killed by fire and they don’t come back,” said Professor Kirkpatrick.

“It’s a species that would have been around in the cretaceous period. It’s regarded as one of the main reasons for listing Tasmania as a world heritage area.”
‘This is what climate change looks like’, fire ecologist says

Fire ecologist David Bowman said the fires burning in Tasmania were a sign of climate change.

“This is bigger than us. This is what climate change looks like, this is what scientists have been telling people, this is system collapse.”

Professor Bowman said it was a difficult situation for firefighters.

“You can’t expect emergency services to just be able to do magic,” he said.

“If you’re dealing with fires on such an immense scale geographically, in such hostile terrain and burning in the ground, you have to prioritise.

“Budgets will be stretched and more money is needed.”

Tasmanian Senator Nick McKim argued federal and state governments had ignored the science.

“Warnings have been given by the conservation movement that climate change is showing that there’s going to be an increase in dry lightning strikes,” Senator McKim said.

“This has been foreseeable, unfortunately, and yet we saw quite a lag time between those fires starting on the 13th of January and resources being thrown at them.”

The head of the Tasmania Fire Service, Chief Officer Gavin Freeman, disagrees.

“We have absolute support from the State Government to get whatever resources we need and our interstate colleagues have offered whatever resources we need,” he said.

“More resources, right at the moment, is not going to help us much, because trying to get into those areas, particularly when we have a day like today where visibility is poor and we can’t fly people in, more resources or more firefighters would just be sitting in a staging area not being able to do anything.”As a blaze continues to burn out of control in northwest Tasmania, extending an emergency warning for residents, a senior firefighter says authorities face weeks more work.

The small shack community of Temma remained on high alert for a second day on Thursday with the Tasmania Fire Service warning of an ‘uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving’ fire, which has already burned through almost 13,000 hectares.

While outhouses, fencing and verandas have been destroyed, there are no reports of dwelling damage, injury or loss of livestock.

Four people have been treated for smoke inhalation.

The areas of Nelson Bay and Arthur River remain on alert and the Nelson Bay Bridge has been destroyed.

Deputy chief Jeremy Smith says forecast rain over coming days will bring little, if any, relief.

‘We’re only anticipating potentially up to 20mm over the three or four days over the weekend so that is not enough rain to extinguish these fires,’ he told ABC Radio.

‘We’ve got many weeks of going through the fire lines and ensuring they’re completely out.’

The fire was one of more than 70 started across the state over a fortnight ago during a series of dry-lightning strikes.

Many of the blazes are burning in remote, difficult-to-access areas, including sections of protected old-growth forest.

Access to Cradle Mountain in the state’s central north has been closed, along with the popular Overland Track, from which trekkers were being air-winched to safety late on Wednesday.

On Thursday fire crews are due to start arriving from New Zealand to join local and interstate personnel.

‘The crews will have to go and do the hard slog and track every edge of those fires,’ Mr Smith said.

Forty helicopters, including some on loan from interstate, are being used to water bomb the fire in difficult-to-reach areas, while radar technology is proving helpful as smoke reduces visibility.

– See more at: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2016/01/28/bushfires-ravage-tasmania.html#sthash.xL1EW6NF.dpuf

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