Planning for a cool burn

9 May 2019

As major fire management consultation meetings with our neighbours and landowners wrap up and the cool, dry winds start to blow, Mimal rangers are preparing for a busy fire season ahead.

This year’s pre-season Arnhem Land Fire Abatement (ALFA NT) meeting saw Mimal host about 60 rangers from groups around Arnhem Land meet at the centrally-located Bawurrbarnda outstation, also known as Emu Springs.

During the two-day meeting, rangers and traditional owners workshopped their fire plans with their neighbours before presenting to the collective group.

“The forum offers a chance for neighbouring groups to share ideas, work together and support one another,” ranger coordinator James Houkamau said.

“We discuss the wins and challenges we had last season and discuss plans moving forward.”

The meeting also gave rangers the chance to undertake training in helicopter safety and to learn more about fuel mixing for blowers and chainsaws.

Following the pre-season meet, Mimal kicked off landowner consultations, another important part of pre-fire season preparations.

“Mimal works to reach many of our landowners to involve them in planning for their land,” Mr Houkamau said.

“Our good relationships with members is based on ongoing engagement and we expect many landowners will be directly involved in the activities.

“It’s certainly a great way for them to see what we’re achieving.”

Ground burning usually starts with asset protection, actively burning around outstations and other sensitive places and cultural areas.

Fire consultant Ben Lewis says Mimal’s fire management generally follows the grass as it dries from west to east.

“We’ve already undertaken some helicopter burning in mid April, targeting higher fuel loads in the remote western parts of our region,” Mr Lewis said.

“With better fire management we’re starting earlier in the year.

“In 2006, country we’re burning today would not have carried a fire until August, due to the history of extensive late season fire that was common back then.

“We’re fortunate to have some satellite imagery showing our burns so far this year and this kind of information can tell us a lot about our fire and helps us make clever plans for the next round of burning.

“Our challenge is to get more rangers familiar with mapping and fire information so we are making time for on the job training for mapping.

Aerial burning is planned using up to date fine scale imagery from the Sentinel satellite. Red: Last year’s fire scars; Black: Burned by helicopter in April 2019; Green line: Gaps the team needs to fill in next time.