AUSTRALIA – Northern Territory Police are investigating whether a bushfire burning over 1,500 hectares in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park could have been deliberately lit.
The large fire has forced the closure of the world-renowned tourist destination Kata Tjuta, also known as the Olgas, which includes a number of walking trails.
Walking trails around Uluru remain open, as does the nearby Yulara Airport, which services the region with domestic flights from around Australia.
Joshua Fischer from Bushfires NT said parts of the fire had been contained thanks to back-burning conducted on Friday evening.
“The western and southern flanks of the fire at this time are under control, however there is still fire freely moving to the north towards the Olgas, and then also some areas of active fire on the eastern flank,” Mr Fischer told ABC Alice Springs.
He said the fire was burning over a land mass of “old spinifex country” which contained “high fuel loads”, but could not say exactly how big the bushfire currently was.
It is not yet known what sparked the fire, but Mr Fischer said the possibility it was deliberately lit was not being ruled out, and NT Police were investigating from the Yulara township.
“There was no lightning in the area during the time period this fire started,” he said.
“Northern Territory Police do have an active investigation underway so we do ask member of the public that if they do know something say something.”
Closures affecting Uluru tourism
Uluru Camel Tours cameleer Chris Witheridge said the closure has been “a bit disappointing” for tourists in the region for a limited time.
“From what we’ve been told by the tourists walking in to the farm they haven’t been able to get out the for about three days now,” he said.
“And potentially it could be closed off tomorrow and the next day as well.
“It’s a bit disappointing for the people coming out here specifically to see the things out here in the Northern Territory.
“The average stay is only about two nights, most people Uluru one night and then Kata Tjuta the other day.”
Mr Witheridge said the fire came on top of an extended period of harsh conditions being experienced in the region.
“This is our hottest year on record so far, I think we had a whole week a fortnight ago where it was 45 degrees every day,” he said.