Man-made Wildfires in Australia By Viv Forbes
No one should be surprised that our bush is ablaze and our cities are smothered in smoke. For decades now we have been locking up land, banning burn-offs and encouraging eucalypt fire-trees. On a hot day, the blue haze on distant timbered hills is highly-flammable eucalypt oil vapour, waiting for a spark. The Australian landscape of open forests and treeless grasslands was developed and maintained under an aboriginal regime of continual small fires. This was followed by planned cool-season burn-offs by European graziers. But a few decades ago this safe black and white fire regime was replaced by green-worshippers who continually expanded the area of locked-up protected parks (now over 11% of Australia). Then they peppered private land with protected-vegetation fire havens, and hampered undergrowth clean-ups and burn-offs. This created many tinder boxes of eucalypt fire-trees waiting for a spark. The spark could be a fearful landowner seeking fire protection with a risky/belated back-burn, a thrill-seeking arsonist, a dry-lightning strike, a careless cigarette butt, a power-line problem or high-flying burning embers - and an unstoppable fire storm is inevitable. Centralised management of bush-fires and National Parks has failed totally. Locals and neighbours are better at managing fires and park land. Posturing politicians and uniformed fire generals should confine themselves to posing for photos, baking scones and boiling billy tea for fire-fighters. And Greens should serve on the fire front.