Fire a great servant but a terrible master

View From the Paddock: Fire a great servant but a terrible master

OPINION
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Greg Ryan, Georgetown grazier.

Greg Ryan, Georgetown grazier.

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While Australia and the rest of the world are consumed by coronavirus at the moment, other pressing issues that we are faced with as a nation are being put on the backburner.

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While Australia and the rest of the world are consumed by coronavirus at the moment, other pressing issues that we are faced with as a nation are being put on the backburner.

The weather is one thing that will not be affected by this virus, so as sure as night follows day, come September/October we will again have a fire season.

Will we be better prepared for this season then has been the case of the last few years, or do we just cross our fingers and hope for the best?

It's a while since I sat in a science class but I am sure the requirements of a fire haven't changed, being fuel, oxygen, and an ignition source.

Temperature, humidity, moisture and wind conditions will determine the intensity of any blaze.

The reality is there will always be an ignition source, either by nature, by accident or by a deliberate act, and there will always be oxygen. Therefore the only preparation option available is to reduce the fuel load.

You can rest assured that the areas that have been severely burnt or sensibly grazed over the last couple of years will not be at risk of creating a wild fire again this season as the low fuel load will not allow it to happen.

Hazard reduction burning can be carried out at quite low risk if done regularly enough while it's cooler, when the winds are low and when the landscape still has some moisture in it. It's as simple as falling off a log, so why are we not doing more of it?

It probably comes back to not enough money and expertise to properly manage our national parks, legislation not allowing individuals to reduce the fuel load, and people believing they are doing the right thing for the environment by not control burning or grazing to reduce fuel.

Sadly these wild fires often cause the exact opposite to what is desired when they rip through the landscape at the wrong time of the year.

There are examples where the environment has been totally destroyed by locking it up in an attempt to protect it without a good fire and or grazing plan in place.

We must also remember that there are land managers out there who do have a good fire plan and use fire as a management tool.

To my knowledge, fire is still the most economical way to control a lot of woody weeds that encroach onto land being used for production.

I believe the practice of planned burning must be allowed to continue without overbearing regulations that make it harder, rather than easier, to do so.

- Greg Ryan, Georgetown beef producer

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