Australia is a land of deserts, droughts, floods, bushfires, flammable forests and fire-prone grasslands – these conditions have developed since the start of the Holocene Warm Era about twelve thousand years ago. All previous Australian bushies, both black and white, have recognised the key principle of fire management in Australia – you can have many small managed “cool” fires in early spring or a few unplanned disastrous “hot” fires consuming a heavy fuel load in hot dry winds in late spring. (Arsonists have other priorities and light their fires at these most dangerous times.) Every generation of Australians sees its fire disasters and the worst ones get names – “Black Thursday” in 1851, “Black Friday” in 1939, “Ash Wednesday” in 1983, and the worst to date “Black Saturday” in 2009. Not even an armada of expensive water bombers will stop these bushfires – at that stage fire can only be prevented or contained by fire.
Good fire management disappeared as rural voters were outvoted by the green leafy suburbs. Urban greens thought we could prevent all fires and encourage wildlife by locking up more parks and encouraging fire-loving, oil-containing eucalypts and flammable weeds close to towns and dwellings. (Many native plants require fire to burst open their rock-hard seed pods.) Graham Lloyd of the Australian notes that even the Hippies of Nimbin blame greens for “the incendiary state of the Australian bush”. Even more stupid are those who think politicians can control or abolish droughts and bushfires by banning the use of coal and oil in a futile attempt to lower global temperature. The sun, the oceans and recurring El Nino droughts will dwarf all efforts of puny politicians. We need good fire and forest management and prosecution of arsonists, not costly climate distractions.