Prescribed burning in Western Australia

Their Rx season is usually from early spring to early summer.

prescribed burning in Western Australia
Smoke from a prescribed fire in the Warren Region of Western Australia. Screenshot from the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service video.

The prescribed burning season in the Warren Region of Western Australia usually winds down this time of the year during the early summer months. Their wildfire season typically extends from October to May.

The official designations of the seasons south of the equator in Australia are laid out like this:

  • Summer: December – February
  • Autumn: March – May
  • Winter: June – August
  • Spring: September – November
Map Warren Region Western Australia
Map: Warren Region of Western Australia. Click to enlarge.

In addition to telling us about the prescribed burning video (below), Dr. Lachlan McCaw, Senior Principal Research Scientist with Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, sent us an overview of of their prescribed burning program in the Warren Region:


The Region is situated in the southwest part of Western Australian and features extensive areas of native vegetation, including designated wilderness areas and the state’s tallest forests. The region is also home to iconic tourism destinations, a rich and diverse agricultural industry, and unique conservation values associated with the highest rainfall area of Western Australia.

Public lands within the region are managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Parks and Wildlife Service and include 0.65 million hectares (1.60 million acres) of national parks and nature reserves, 0.25 million hectares (0.617 million acres) of state forest and timber reserves, and a lesser area of unallocated crown land and unmanaged reserves.

Southwest Western Australia has a Mediterranean type climate with warm dry summers and the fire season typically extends from October to May. Open forests and heathlands become dry enough to burn in early spring whereas tall dense forest types may retain moisture into the early months of the austral summer.

Prescribed fire is an important tool for land management in southwest Western Australia and in the Warren Region the annual burning program undertaken by the Parks and Wildlife Service may vary from 30,000 ha (74,000 a.) to 70,000 ha (172,000 a.). Prescribed burning is undertaken for a number of purposes including:

  • To mitigate the risk and severity of bushfires and assist in the protection of lives, property and infrastructure by reducing the build up of vegetation fuels;
  • To maintain biodiversity and habitat diversity;
  • To reestablish vegetation after timber harvesting and disturbance by mining operations;
  • To understand the behaviour of fire and its interactions with the environment.

Setting up a containerized Incident Command Post in Australia

Container Fire Camp
Screenshot from the video.

When agencies in the Western United States set up a large Incident Command Post many fire organizations haul in trailers of one type or another, but this video shows how the Parks and Wildlife Service in Western Australia gets it done.

I imagine the units are quite a bit less expensive to procure than rolling stock, and it looks like they could be set up rather quickly on flat ground. If the units have to be leveled, I suppose you could raise them with the fork lift and slip concrete blocks and/or layers of 2″ x 12″ boards under them.

Bushfire in Western Australia produces round smoke column

A NASA satellite captured an unusual smoke column over a bushfire in Western Australia December 8 southwest of Walpole. Apparently there was little wind to disperse the smoke, causing it to build up in a round shape, as seen overhead. This was very different from the smoke pattern we showed you on December 7 created by another fire in Western Australia.

The red dots are heat detected by the visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite.

Bushfire in Western Australia closes highway, stranding hundreds of travelers

Above: Wind in Western Australia produces an interesting trajectory of smoke from a bushfire near Madura. NASA image, December 7, 2016 U.S. time.

A large bushfire in Western Australia forced authorities to close a major highway resulting in hundreds of long-haul truckers and tourists being stuck on the road for hours. Some of them were stranded between roadblocks that were 170 kilometers (105 miles) apart.

Wednesday morning the Eyre Highway across the Nullarbor was closed between Caiguna Roadhouse and Madura. By evening it was open again.

There were two large fires south of the highway that were being pushed by the wind toward the road.

The fire started from lightning four days ago 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Cocklebiddy.

Below is a time-lapse video of satellite photos of smoke from fires in the area.

Bushfire Madura, Western Australia
Bushfire near Madura, Western Australia. Photo by DFES.

Bushfire in Western Australia burns millions of acres

 

A huge bushfire in the Kimberley region of Western Australia has burned approximately 2.4 million acres (1 million hectares). Since it started from lightning two weeks ago it has been spreading across cattle stations on both sides of Gibb River Road and recently began approaching Aboriginal communities. Not all fires in sparsely populated areas of Western Australia are aggressively suppressed but firefighters have been working around the clock this week to put in a fireline on the north side near Gibb River Road station.

Kimberly region bushfire map
The Kimberley region of the north part of Western Australia. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite October 10, 2016. The black areas near the dots are most likely recently burned. Note the graphic scale at bottom-right.  MODIS/Wildfire Today.

Below is an excerpt from an article at ABC.NET in Australia:

Indigenous ranger groups from across the region have converged on the area to help, some travelling hundreds of kilometres. There is concern about the impact the bushfire will have on the landscape, which covers both prime grazing country and biodiversity hotspots.

The fire is now heading towards properties managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. The group’s national operations manager Tim Allard said it would have a harsh impact on native species.

“It’s a significant fire and a significant chunk of land has been burnt in one event,” he said.

“It’s decimated the habitat for so many animals … [and] the other issue is it destroys all of the refuge for native animals to hide from feral cats.”

Concerns raised about the choice to lead an inquiry into fatal bushfire in Western Australia

The government of Western Australia is conducting an inquiry into the Waroona Bushfire that in early January, 2016 killed two people, burned 31,000 hectares (76,600 acres), and destroyed 95 homes near Yarloop. Some of the residents were evacuated by boat after they found themselves trapped between the Indian Ocean and the fire.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The Australian:

The man appointed to lead an ­independent inquiry into the ­Yarloop bushfire, Euan Ferguson, ran South Australia’s rural fire service when it was heavily criticised in a coronial report for failing to warn the public about a fire that killed nine people in 2005.

The finding is relevant because Mr Ferguson is now examining complaints from angry Yarloop residents that they also were not adequately warned about the blaze last month in which two people died.

Mr Ferguson was in charge of the Country Fire Service during the so-called Black Tuesday bushfire in Port Lincoln that destroyed 93 homes and wiped out 77,000ha of land [in 2005].

South Australia’s deputy coroner, Anthony Schapel, found the CFS under Mr Ferguson failed to adequately warn the public when the fire began and did not adequately respond to the fire.

“The community to the southeast and east of the fireground were unaware of the risk of the fire in many instances until it was too late,” Mr Schapel found in 2007.

“The fact of the matter was that no adequate measures were put in place or attempted which meant that opportunities to alter the outcome were not taken.

“Because the risk to the public was never properly addressed or appreciated, none of those measures were ever adequately considered. For the same reason no adequate warning was given.”

Yarloop residents say Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services failed to convey the danger they faced before the deadly bushfire destroyed their town on January 7.

The department did not issue its first emergency warning that explicitly mentioned Yarloop until 7.35pm — just minutes before the fire hit…