Sparks fly in climate debate

National debate on climate has flared up in the wake of the worst fires

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There are many views on how best to manage landscape to prevent future fires like we've seen this week.

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Fire swept through Wytaliba six weeks ago but came back over blackened ground to destroy homes and kill two people, fuelling debate about climate change and appropriate land management.

Fire swept through Wytaliba six weeks ago but came back over blackened ground to destroy homes and kill two people, fuelling debate about climate change and appropriate land management.

Federal Emergency Services minister David Littleproud doesn't want to "weaponise" the debate on climate change, or hazard reduction management, while Deputy PM Michael McCormack has blamed inner city greenies for using the current state of emergency as a political platform.

Too late, says Glen Innes Severn Shire mayor Carol Sparks. The firestorm of climate reality is upon us and the time to talk about it is now.

The victim of fire, twice in six weeks, at Wytaliba, her home of 40 years, Cr Sparks says there is no better time to bring on a climate debate.

Recently inspired to act by that Swedish schoolgirl, Cr Sparks with help from Severn Council acting general manager Mark Riley, convinced the council to call a climate emergency - ironically just before the recent fires repeatedly ravaged Wytaliba - returning to lick clean a forest blackened from before.

The emotional cost for the tight alternative community is huge. For Cr Sparks, recent events have propelled her onto front stage in the climate debate.

With 20 years service to the Rural Fire Service, Cr Sparks says regular, annual hazard reduction from one of the youngest aged brigades mattered little in this unprecedented fire storm. Annual low intensity burns failed to stop fire in what she has labelled a climate emergency.

"The air was burning," she said.

Planning for a climate emergency involves strategy and an inaugural meeting November 14 will set in motion some directions.

"Along with praying for rain we need to pray for leadership," she said.

How much to burn?

Meanwhile, retired forester and fire ecologist Vic Jurskis says the lack of hazard reduction work in the great eastern forests are directly responsible for the current state of emergency.

In an open letter to government leaders, the Eden-based forester, and author of Firestick Ecology, said the biggest problem with wildfire were fuel loads in forested areas that stretched in every direction - up and down and side to side.

This "3D" fuel load was the direct result of under-burning on an annual basis.

"Its not just hazard reduction," he says.

"Mild burning is necessary to maintain natural nutrient cycling, groundlayer diversity, forest health and open habitat.

"Well managed country includes a mosaic of green, brown and black. But we are now seeing landscapes inches deep in litter with shrubs and bark that will direct flames into the tree canopies.

"You can't manage a fire by burning around the edge of a land asset," he said.

"You can only manage the whole of the land because in extreme weather, the ember storms create megafires."

Yulgilbar Station staff have been fighting fires since September and this week faced their greatest challenge, surrounded on three sides ahead of Tuesday's onslaught.

Yulgilbar Station staff have been fighting fires since September and this week faced their greatest challenge, surrounded on three sides ahead of Tuesday's onslaught.

Months of fighting fires with no end

Staff at Yulgilbar Station had been fighting fires on the Upper Clarence since their September bull sale but are in the midst of their greatest challenge after a wind change on Wednesday morning directed yet another fire front down upon the iconic Santa Gertrudis stud.

Manager Rob Sinnamon said the property was surrounded on three sides. While infrastructure has so far been saved, thousands of acres of pasture has been lost with fires encroaching from forested country at Keybarbin, Ewingar and Washpool.

Elsewhere in the Upper Clarence fires roared through the Nymboida valley, destroying homes that would later make up the tally of 300 structures lost in this latest round.

On the western slopes of the Northern New England, Tingha lost a dozen homes while nearby Emmaville remains on high alert. Over on the northern side of that fire, Julia Harpham said Mingoola fire fighters were exhausted with no end to their toil in sight. Meanwhile political debate is focused on cuts to emergency services.

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