• Land of Fire

    3rd November 2014Places to VisitStephanie Donaldson

    fire danger warning signs in Australia It’s not until you are in Australia that you appreciate how ever-present the danger of fire is in peoples’ lives.  For the plants, it is an essential method of regeneration, but for the people it is their greatest fear. In the National Parks, they have adopted the Aboriginal practice of mosaic burning to reduce the risk of vast forest fires.  Mosaic burning involves lighting small controllable fires to reduce the litter on the forest floor. This is enough to release seeds from their pods and also creates a flush of fresh growth that the wildlife can feed on. Fire hazard rating signs appear at regular intervals alongside roads, every home has an evacuation plan, and one woman told me she packs up all her documents and most precious possessions and puts them into fire-safe storage every summer because she fully expects the house to burn down at some point.  Throughout our trip the fire rating in the areas we visited were ‘low to moderate’ – I doubt we would have been as relaxed if  the arrow had been higher up the dial.
    dry forest in Australia mosaic burning on forest floor

    banksia cones

    Aboriginal women use the cones of Banksia serrata as very effective hairbrushes with the added advantage that the bristles release an oil that gives the hair a healthy sheen. Fire causes the cones to open and release their seeds.