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Prescribed burning

Every Year volunteer Brigades in the Vernon Region (basically the extended Darwin rural area) are given a list of NT Government (crown) lands to be burnt at the start of the bushfire season. This list takes into account the following factors:

  • how many years since it was last burnt, by prescribed burn or by wildfire;
  • past history of deliberately lit wildfires on the land;
  • assets in the immediate area, e.g. houses, orchards, farms;
  • potential consequences of not burning; and
  • environmental sensitivity to fire.

Fires at the start of the dry season are relatively cool and easy to manage. Not all grasses are fully cured, leaving many unburnt islands in the area. As the season progresses, humidity drops, winds increase and grasses and other fuels dry out. Fires become harder to safely manage and burns are more complete, with few or no unburnt areas.

"Early prescribed burns benefit land management and biodiversity helping to achieve the balance between protection of ecological values and flora and fauna and the protection of people and assets by negating the detrimental effects of wildfire." - BFNT

Burning early in the season while there is still moisture in the soil results in vigorous regeneration, leaving healthy areas devoid of long, dry grasses to fuel hot late season fires.

Areas burnt late in the dry season take longer to regenerate and may not do so until the increased humidity of the coming wet season.

There is an interesting article on wet season burning in Kakadu to control spear grass. In the Darwin rural area spear grass is being displaced by heavy infestations of gamba and mission grass which survive burning through a root mass that sprouts new growth soon after a fire. The most effective control of these declared weeds is spraying with herbicide (glyphosate).

Catalyst - Carbon Country - Mapping the Results 

The page Why do firies burn? gives a personal opinion on the prescribed burning program in the Darwin rural area.
The following photos show some areas burnt in the 2009 bushfire season. The page Prescribed Burn – Fly Creek shows before and after photos.
 Below:  A prescribed fuel reduction burn on a crown land block
(Hay & Old Bynoe Roads) on 15 April 2009.
 Below:  These photos of the same area were taken
6 May 2009 (left) and 7 July 2009 (right).
 Below:  These next two photos taken 21 May 2009 show another crown land block (Old Bynoe & Hopewell Roads) that was burnt about five weeks previously. Cycads have regenerated, ironwood trees have new leaves and there are new grasses. Compare them with the following two photos taken the same day of the other side of the road, which was last burnt in a wildfire late July 2001. Gamba and mission grasses tower above the Grass Fire Unit.

Below: This photo was taken Monday 14 September 2009 on Hopewell Road, Berry Springs after a recent wildfire. The burn is complete with almost everything consumed in the fire.

Below: These next two photos were taken Tuesday 7 April 2009 immediately after prescribed fuel reduction burn at Hughes Airstrip, along the track heading in from the pumping station. This burn area was backing against the wind.
 Below: These next two photos show the same general area,
taken Monday 25 May 2009.


Below: This photo was taken Tuesday 29 September 2009, the day after a wildfire on Cameron Downs, south of Batchelor. In a few days the trees will drop their leaves, making this look even more gaunt and bare.