Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bushfire Aftermath

With the fire out, National Parks finally open the road to our beach so we decided to have a look at the damage.
It was obvious when we got to the forested part of fire ground that the intensity of the fire had not been that great.
It had not reached the tree tops and therefore not 'spotted' too far in front of itself.
The road had been a natural fire break.
It was a bit of a different story in the coastal heath up to the dunes near the beach.
All the under storey and low lying bush had been burnt.

But they had stopped the fire heading south to the camping ground and a reading spot (picnic table) was still there surrounded by green bush.
The beach was as beautiful and pristine as always and looked great in the autumn morning light.

And it was amazing to see that, with just that little bit of rain we had, regrowth had already started.
There was just the hint of a green on the ground as the plant life sprang back to life
Many native Australian plants need fire to regenerate. Banksias are a prime example and a couple of species are prevalent in our coastal heath.

Fire opens the hard cones and spreads the seeds which then germinate in the nutrient rich residue of the fire.
It will take a couple of years and, apart from the blackened tree trunks, it will be difficult to notice that a fire has been through the area.

Friday, March 08, 2019

End of Season Bushfire

Early on Wednesday morning, the co driver noticed smoke rising from the National Park over the highway.
I check my Fires Near Me app and sure enough there was a small bushfire near the lake.

We thought nothing much of it at first but as the morning passed it was evident from the increasing smoke that it was developing.

Soon we knew we may have a problem on our hands. Luckily the winds were light and not blowing in our direction but it was obvious that it was getting bigger. The app map confirmed this.

As darkness fell a huge red glow spread across the eastern horizon.
Around 2am the next morning I awoke and the glow had turned bright orange and the light flooded our bedroom.
I checked the map again and sure enough the fire had taken off, jumped the lake and was heading for the village to our north. They were under a yellow alert ie.initiate evacuation plan. The firefighters had lit a back burn on one of the fire trails just over the lake to combat the spread of flames, hence the intense light.

A back burn is a deliberate fire lit in front of the bushfire along a natural (lake, river) or man made (track, road) fire break. This fire is then 'sucked' towards the bushfire by that fire's own air consumption, against the wind, eventually giving the more intense main fire nothing to burn.
This stopped the northerly spread and the alert was withdrawn.
Next morning, Thursday, the fire to the south east was still intense and due to a change of wind, heading towards us.
Water bombing helicopters were continually flying over us to the fire.
The app indicated that the firefighters were beginning a back burn along a track directly over from us and we were told by another source that the increased smoke this would cause should not be a worry.
Helicopters continued their 'attack' until 7pm when the sun began to set.
It was obvious from new app maps that the back burn had done the job but there was still an intense red glow in the sky during the night as the two fires met and burnt out.

This morning, Friday, the smoke plumes had gone but the helicopters, en masse, are back helping fire fighters on the ground mop up.
Fallen trees and burning logs have to be doused, especially around the perimeter, as any small fires left burning or smouldering can easily start a new fire if weather conditions change.
How this fire started in cool, calm autumn conditions is anyone's guess.
A campfire that got away or deliberately lit? The latter is sadly not unknown.
In any case, 220ha of National Park has been burnt out and a huge amount of beautiful wild flower habitat and native vegetation destroyed especially along the northern part of our beach.
But thanks to the Rural Fire Service there was no property damage.
Rain, up to 30mm, is predicted for tomorrow.
We can only hope.
Update: 10th March
No rain at all yesterday. Warm to hot and dry conditions predicted for the next week. There is no activity in the air over the fire ground but the roads in on both sides of the lake are still closed so assume they are still working on shutting it down completely.
Update: 11th March
Today we are covered in smoke. From the new app map it seems that the fire, while still under control, continues to be active as the back burns consume the last of the combustible material within the fire ground.

Update: 18th March
68mm of rain over 24 hours and the fire is finally out.