Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cool Fire

For tens of thousands of years the Aboriginal people of Australia have had a cultural obligation to look after and clean up the country.  One of the ways in which they completed this duty was through the use of fire--a tool that when used properly would create minimal harm while bringing maximum benefits.
Today, the National Parks of the Northern Territory are starting to realize the value of this ancient Aboriginal knowledge and fire is being used as a management tool to reduce the amount of fuel loads and to create firebreaks.  It is through the use of traditional patch burning during the cooler weather that the land and important historical sites can be protected from large, destructive wildfires later in the season.  It is also important to note that since traditional burning has been reinstated there has been an increase in native fora and fauna.

Since our visit to the Top End was during the cooler months of the dry season we saw several controlled fire burns.  As we entered Litchfield Park we were required to drive through a prescribed burn.  As we drove down the narrow road, the flames leaping toward the car, I couldn't help but wonder if our car rental insurance included third-degree burns.  It was also a bit eerie to sit at our campsite and not only hear the faint crackle but to see the smoke rising from the smoldering fires in the near distance--a stone throw from where we were to sleep.  As we drove and walked through the charred and sometimes burning landscape, I had to force myself to remember that it was not destruction that I was witnessing, but rather a temporary scar that in the long run will protect and encourage life.

"This earth.  I never damage.  I look after.  Fire is nothing. just clean up.  When you burn. new grass coming up.  That means good animal soon.  might be goanna. possum.  wallaby.  Burn him off.  new grass coming up. new life all over."
Bill Neidjie-Bunitj Clan


  1. Hi Maya, sounds like a good controlled way of preventing out of control brush fire. Something all too familiar for here in Southern California. I think hearing the crackling fire and seeing the distant smoke would make me a little nervous too. Thanks for the interesting post.

  2. Interesting. We learned that a lot of the flora needed fire to germinate the seeds. This sounds like the perfect way to restore a lot of the native flora. I would have been nervous also. I agree with Kathy - very interesting post.