Fire light­ing in Aus­tralia

Central and North Burnett Times - - OPINION -

AUS­TRALIAN fire-lighters come in six colours — yel­low, black, white, blood red, dark green and light green. All are rel­e­vant to bush­fires and for­est man­age­ment.

“Yel­low” is the fire-lighter that has been with us for­ever. It is the yel­low flash of light­ning which has al­ways ig­nited the Aus­tralian bush. We’re dream­ing to think we can lock yel­low fire out of parks, forests and her­itage ar­eas. But good for­est man­age­ment can re­duce the fe­roc­ity and de­struc­tion of light­ning-strike fires.

“Black” fire-lighters came with the First Aus­tralians. With­out matches or tin­der boxes they prob­a­bly cap­tured the fire ge­nie from a light­ning fire. Or they car­ried it here on clay hearths on the floor of their ca­noes. They val­ued this magic tool for warmth, cook­ing, in­sect con­trol, veg­e­ta­tion clear­ing, animal trap­ping and fight­ing ene­mies. Some also learned how to light fires us­ing heat gen­er­ated by fric­tion, but this was a slow, la­bo­ri­ous process and it was far eas­ier to pre­serve and carry fire in a burn­ing fire­stick.

To keep these sticks alight or to light a new one as they trav­elled, no­madic par­ties on the plains and deserts re­newed them pe­ri­od­i­cally by set­ting fire to a clump of dry veg­e­ta­tion. Then they moved on. They lit fires for many rea­sons, any­where at any time. They tried to keep out of the way of fires, and were known to re­di­rect mild grass­land fires but never tried to put them out. What should we do?

First, ban the de­fec­tive dark­green fire-lighters, jail ar­son­ists caught us­ing blood-red fire-lighters for thrills or malev­o­lence, and learn to live with yel­low light­ning strike fires.

Sec­ond, man­date the use of the light-green fire-lighter – an im­proved ver­sion of the black and white mod­els used by abo­rig­i­nals and squat­ters. Use them to re­move fuel load with cool sea­son burn­ing. And when fire comes, use them to fight fire with fire.

Give light-green lighters to all prac­ti­cal foresters, landown­ers, fire war­dens and lo­cal bush­fire man­agers – they will safely abol­ish the dark-green night­mare of mas­sive wild­fires.

With so much land burnt, now is the per­fect time to make sure it does not hap­pen again in those ar­eas. Kick out the bu­reau­crats and the deep greens and put rangers, foresters, prop­erty own­ers and lo­cal fire war­dens in charge. Viv Forbes

SHARE YOUR VIEWS: Letters to the ed­i­tor can be emailed to edi­to­rial@south bur­nett­ or mailed to PO Box 312, Kin­garoy, Qld, 4610. All letters are sub­ject to edit­ing. Anony­mous letters will not be pub­lished.

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