Australia’s farmers are literally facing ‘fire and brimstone’ as emergency services are overwhelmed due to the sheer size and scale of the country’s bushfires.
Some blame has been pointed at recent changes in environmental ‘green’ policies that have prevented cattle from grazing forest areas and restricted both private landowners and Governmental hazard reduction burning.
In recent decades, more Australian National Parks have been created and forest fire fuel levels have increased.
Due to non-grazing by cattle, fire trails have become unused and completely overgrown, adding to the propensity and intensity of bush-fires occurring.
In the past, indigenous Australians commonly lit low intensity fires to clear the undergrowth and encourage new grass growth.
Older pastoralists commonly adopted the indigenous Australian practice, especially when being used and incorporated as part of forestation grazing leases.
The indigenous practices go back tens of thousands of years. However, two distinct forestation and grazing management methods are involved: hazard reduction burning and back-burning.
Hazard reduction is the act of burning at low heat and low intensity to remove fuel such as undergrowth; fallen tree branches, leaves and grass.
Back-burning is the act of lighting a fire in front of an active bush fire to remove fuel and create a fire-break.
In order to protect their farms, property and machinery and townships, Australian farmers have been using back-burning to create firebreaks.
In some cases, back-burning has worked, in other cases, it has not. This is due to the sheer intensity of the fires that have been further exacerbated by wind draught and intense summer heat of 35-45degC.
Changes in Government environmental policies has not had a positive impact on the environment, according to Bega Valley dairy farmer Phil Ryan.
He said: “I have been a member of the Rural Fire Service for nearly 20 years and not seen anything like this level of destruction.
“More properties are being built on the edges of forests and are, therefore, in the frontline of bush fires. I also consider climate change is having an impact on fire intensity due to lower humidity and higher temperatures.”