Tuesday, July 17, 2012

You're Fired!

Fire is an integral part of life in Australia.  One thing the western US and Australia have in common is the almost annual occurrence of catastrophic wildfires (called bushfires here).  People die, homes and property are destroyed, and millions of dollars are spent fighting this force of nature.

In Australia, fire is so much a part of life that it would be incorrect to say most native plants are adapted to fire.  Actually, most native plants are entirely reliant on fire.  Often it is part of their reproductive cycle: certain compounds found in smoke trigger molecular switches in seeds that signal it to begin germination.

Living in such an environment means that humans, too, must become at least somewhat adapted to fire as a reality.  It is a continual process, starting mostly in winter (the rainy season), when Australians who know what's go going on go out and light small, controlled fires to reduce the fuel burden on their property.  In most rural/residential areas, this is compulsory, and non-compliers receive a burn notice, then a fine if no action is taken, then a visit from the fire brigade, then a bill for their services.

The above photo was taken during a "hot burn" a few years ago at the Shed.  It left an eerie moon-scape the following day.  But the next year, the block was as green and lush as ever.  

This wet season, instead of setting the entire block on fire, I've been doing a series of small fuel burden reduction burns of leaf piles and other specific hazards.  One such hazard is a large Grass Tree that has not been burned in at least a decade, and which is uncomfortably close to the shed.  

Grass Trees are a primitive Australian plant belonging to the order Xanthorrhoea which can live for hundreds of years.  Their closest relatives are the Joshua Tree, the Yucca plant, and for some reason, Asparagus.  The video below shows the correct procedure for reducing the fire hazard of a Grass Tree.  It may appear as though I am murdering the plant, but try to remember that, like a Phoenix bird, they actually LIKE fire.  It's good for them.  In a few months it will look healthier than ever in spite of (or because of?) this immolation.

Keep in mind that this is NOT mindless arson.  This is carefully planned, skillfully executed, legally required and necessary bushfire prevention.  

Burn baby, burn!


  1. ...and just a really good excuse to light something on fire. :D

  2. That grass tree will get its revenge. Remember to run when you see it has not only grown a spear but is taking aim .... 8O