Bushfire Management

Fire stick farming

Fire stick farming is of great interest to me, as fire ecology as a tool for ecosystem manipulation appears widespread and old among hunter-gatherers worldwide. I made a study of this among the Kua, and it was actually what my grant was for, but I had to change topics in mid stream as Botswana had been converted to the "Smokey the Bear" philosophy by range ecologists at the world bank - so they had passed draconian anti-burning laws just before I got to the field. None of the people (Bushmen or Tswana) would talk about fire until well into my third year of fieldwork, although I collected plenty of evidence of fires and their (largely positive) effect on the hunter-gatherer's favorite food plants and game populations. Use of fire in this way was discussed by George Schaller among Australian hunter-gatherers in the 1970s.

Victorian bushfires by arson

The Australian Institute of Criminology reported last month that half of Australian bushfires are deliberately lit. Bushfire research needs to go further to evaluate whether in fact of the most damaging most are deliberately lit. Test: If one excluded arson ignitions and their related spotover fires (between 29 Jan at Delburn to 8 Feb) would the firestorms have occurred? Assuming the answer is no, then clearly arson must be Australia's key focus in combating the impacts of bushfire. Unlike the other two causes of bushfire, (lightning and accident) which are random, bush arson targets the worst conditions, upwind of a specific target and often involving multiple ignitions. The term 'fire bug' is too docile and to start seriously dealing with it, we must change the perception and the language. Bush arson has become so deadly and catastrophic a crime that it warrants the term 'pyroterrorism'. See the application of this term in the recent California fires.

Poor Wilsons Promontory

Containing the largest coastal wilderness area in Victoria, but massively scarred by a 700 hectare fire in 2005 due to a prescribed burn that escaped (again). Now again, just four years hence, the Prom is suffering a massive blaze out to 11,000 hectares, having burned from coast to coast across the more remote northern section of the Promontory. No lives, no homes so no priority!