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Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:04 am
by Bigriggen Park
Read "Back From The Brink" Could not put it down as it is so interesting. One question though and it is... How do we lessen the risk of bush fires without burning?

How do we lessen the risk of bush fires without burning?

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2007 1:18 pm
by duane
Before the arrival of our indigenous people some 40-60,000 years ago the natural fire regime in the Australian landscape was 1 in every 300 years. From around 40000 years ago the fire cycles became more evident and frequent, occuring every 3-4 years. This is evidenced from core drilling of the Great Barrier Reef, where burning cycles show up as black rings amongst the white coral remains in core samples.

Fire as we know can be man made or it can be caused by natural means such as lightning strikes.

Why was the incidence so low all those years ago. The answer is very SIMPLE.

Do an experiment for yourself next saturday to test what I am saying.
Go to your newsagent and buy 2 copies of the SMH. Put one copy in the bathtub and part fill it with water. Put the other copy outside in the baking sun. The next day pull out the wet paper and take it outside. Get a box of matches and see which one you can light.

Let me know the answer.

We have drained our landscapes and removed vast tracts of its vegetation. Rivers,creeks and streams are little more than stormwater drains. The natural rehydration that used to occur in our landscape has been dislocated. The natural cooling effect of water and plants that used to cool our landcape have been slowly but inexorably lost and the remaining landscape is becoming desertified and drying out. Our landscape is now the dry SMH that is lying out in the sun waiting for a spark to ignite it.

We need to learn to value the moderating effect plants have on controlling the climate and the water cycles. We need to cool our landscapes and capture and hold water in it in the ground when we can and not let it drain away.

All of this will not be achievable overnight but some of the other ways we need to look at for moderating fire are changing the plant and forest mix from fire promoting plants to fire retarding plants as once existed in this country. And we also need to address how quickly we respond to fires and put them out as quickly as they occur.

The great fire that engulfed Canberra a few years ago could have been put out with your boots the first night it started. The ABC program 4 Corners recently showed the fire where it had started, captured on video by fire interpreters. It was left to burn by the RFS and over the ensuing days the RFS backburnt huge areas in order to arrest the fire from entering Canberra. I always thought that when you wanted to contain a fire in your fireplace you didnt throw more logs into it. A source recently told me that National Parks have a saying, "that when the RFS is called to a domestic fire in the kitchen they start a backburn in the living room".

Many fires like the ACT one could have been put out easily and quickly. Often, the volunteers are sent home before midnight only to report for work the next day with the fire raging and temperatures rising. Instead, many of these fires could be controlled by using nature and understanding that at night there happens to occur an inversion layer when cool moist air comes back to the ground to settle and conditions are a lot cooler, providing the fire has'nt been raging for too long. One solution may be to keep teams rotated so that fires can be fought after midnight as well as before, instead of sending all the troops home before 12 midnight.

Going back to where this posting all started, we have removed 95% of our wetlands and millions of acres of native forests. Let's remove the remaining and watch as Rome burns or do we take a stand and do as Peter Andrews suggests.

Posted: Tue Aug 04, 2009 6:02 pm
by CJW
My experience in the Tweed Valley NSW with burnt bush is that it remains fire prone until it has remained free from fires for 20 or more years. After this time, fire proof species begin to take a hold and the longer between fires, the less likely it is to ignite.

Deliberate planting of fire proof species, serves to accelarate and assist the process and many non native "weed" species serve to make this a quick and easy process.

Posted: Sat Jan 23, 2010 10:22 am
by matto
David Holmgren, co-founder of permaculture, has a free download called The Flywire House at his website, which includes design's for fire around your house using fire-retardant species.
He has also been working on some natural rehabilitation at the Spring Creek Gully where he has employed some of Peter's work, as well as developing contoured windrows from cleared understory. This catches runoff and promotes damp conditions to cool gullys which will act as a fire break.
The cleared vegetaion itself will slow fire down in the understory.

Posted: Fri Feb 26, 2010 9:12 am
by duane

David Holgrem and others work on Spring Creek is terrific and highlights the farcical debate about the willows issue. Thanks for posting the link

Posted: Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:41 pm
by ColinJEly
On a similar, but slightly different tangent, after fruitlessly waiting for my local council to replace my street tree that fell down a couple of years ago I planted a Nothofagus cunninghamii out the front. After surviving the hot summer weather, it succumbed to our very changeable hail and sun recently :-(

Posted: Mon Mar 15, 2010 7:12 am
by duane

don't let one failure beat you.....suggest that you could plant another.....they say 'lightning never.....'

Posted: Sat Apr 03, 2010 8:35 am
by ColinJEly
Yes with the cooler weather with us I figure I can plant now and it will get a flying start before next summer. My house faces west so whatever I plant will get the full sun in summer. I was also thinking of planting an Albany Wooly Bush.

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:44 pm
Difficult... I don't want to burn but our newly purchased property is surrounded by African love grass (not clumps of it - it is practically a monoculture). The house is surrounded by about 30-40 acres of it. It is highly flamable - do I dare leave it for even a season without some form of hazard reduction.... I feel I have to burn the area immediately around the house before next fire season. I will be looking to plant fire retardand species and implement some nsf principles - at this point in time it doesn't rain alot around here (Bredbo NSW)

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 6:36 pm
by Shirley Henderson
How about some goats or other animals to assist with controlling the vegetation you dont want while they also contribute some fertility?

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:05 pm
Thanks, I'm not sure I can take on any more animals at present - limited resources as we have just purchased the property. Fencing is not suitable for goats or sheep. Down the track I was thinking of offering my neighbour some free agistment for his sheep - once I do get the fencing done in a year or two. In the meantime I'm gathering horse poo and donkey poo (did you know donkeys do their poo in neat little piles...). I'm going to compost it a bit then spread it around the up hill areas.

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:00 am
by Shirley Henderson
Hard work! Im going to be trialing sugar or mollasses as done by a few others. I will let you know how it goes. Apparently the tussock grows due to low calcium in the soil and the weeds grow to correct imbalances. The weeds create sugar (especially the thistles as stated by PA) and the sugar improves the fertility and the change of flora plus less of the weeds. So theoretically adding sugar cuts out the middle process. Sheep and other animals will go for the most delicious first so will avoid the tussocks in preference of the other plants that you may want to hold onto. THe thistles are tasty and nutritious as they soften so the animals can recycle those into fertility. I am going to try it and Ill keep you posted of the results. We have some tussocks on the reserve where I work. Trial and error plus recording your efforts, sucesses and failures and results is very important. Watch and learn from what others have tried. Correct me if I am wrong Duane :)

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Mon Aug 08, 2011 5:06 pm
by Martyn
If you really want to burn your lovegrass you need to do it now, whilst there is moisture in the air and the nights are cold. Burn it at sundown when it is still and moist and get the guy's from the RFS to help. The biggest problem with burning lovegrass is that it will come back thicker then ever, due to the fact that you have opened up the ground to light. I know - I live across the river from Bredbo.

The only things I've seen take lovegrass out properly are our pigs, once they have dug up an area - we are working on our garden and lawn at the moment, you need to seed with a legume like lucerne, a clover for when it starts to cool off again and anything else that will grow faster and taller then ALG (African Love Grass) (footnote: the only thing I've seen out grow ALG is cooch). Now - sorry but natives won't do it, they die out as the ALG are coming into there best. You will need to spot or chip the odd ALG plant as the season rolls on. Start on teh western sideof your property as that's where the wind will come from to spread the seed in the future - a good wind break is essential.

Get a contour line put in along the top of the slope as best you can, you'll have rock so it may be two intermittent lines. But make sure they don't go too deep past the top soil into the clay other wise the water won't infiltrate very well. It would also be good to rip just above the countoour line a couple of times to help the infiltration in the intense storms we sometimes get over summer.

As for your manure - it works better in piles and if I was you I'd get cow manure from Buzz/Bredbo Sand and Gravel down the road, it has far more nutrient value then either horse or donkey - the reason for piles is that when we get our heavy rains it has a better chance of staying on the hill side then floating down the slope and onto the road. When you have your piles, build them like a compost heap, with dry matter and green so you get it nice and warm and introduce worms into them (good idea to stick a small road kill in the middle for a bit of good bacteria). And, if your like every where else in bredbo, get the paddock deep ripped across the contour (a Yeomans plough would be better but I can't find anybody with one in our district), everything here is compacted. It's important to do this in spring and seed the rip lines with anything that will grow fast, from summer wheat to pasture grass to stop the tussock getting in.

I haven' t heard the calcium deficentcy idea before and I must go and check my soil tests, I know soluable calcium helps water infiltration so I'd be willing ot try it. I've had a test trench dug on my place for a DI&I soil course and we measured teh ALG roots down for 2 metres.

Although I'm not in favour of spraying - but in our case I think getting patches of good pasture and working out is something worth looking at. I've had a little success with mowing, then spot spraying, but the native grasses keep letting me down in the competition side of things.

JUst don't make the mistake of boom spraying or ploughing.

cheers - I hope this makes sense.

Bredbo Valley View

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2011 9:17 pm
Thanks Martyn - very informative. I don't really want to burn but I will a bit just around the house. I've heard Buzz's name mentioned a fair few times - everyone seems to know him except us and he lives right opposite! I'll look into the cow manure. I notice alot of people seem to have planted poplars along the eroded gulleys going up the hill. I seems like a good idea to me - what do you reckon?

Re: Burning vegetation to lessen fire risk

Posted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:39 am
by Martyn
They grow really well in our climate and soil. If you don't want them to multiplye - that is keep them under control, take cuttings from only one individual tree. Those trees will sucker, but they won't spread.
THere are also different varietes, the pencil one you see around Bredbo and the silver one which looks like a Birch. They aren't Aleopathic and sheep and cows will browse the leaves. The timber is soft and not good for much - local legend is that they were first grown here for match sticks. I'll send you the newsletters next week - this one is a bit full on.