Indigenous fire practices, cool burning and land management

Indigenous fire practices, cool burning and land management

Traditional Aboriginal methods of managing Country through early dry season cool burning has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence and intensity of hot fires later in the dry season in the Northern Territory.

More cool burns will reduce hot burns, resulting in fewer trees, plants and their seeds being destroyed.

It promotes new plant growth and clears natural waste materials.

This past weekend at Hartzview Vineyard, Rod and Anthea Patterson took advice from local Elder Rodney Dillon on indigenous cool burning and land management techniques.

Rodney Dillon has strong heritage connections in the Gardners Bay and Nicholls Rivulet localities through his ancestor Fanny Cochrane-Smith.

Cool burning to reduce fire hazard undergrowth is best practiced during late autumn to spring, preferably between April and July.

Appropriate conditions and suitable times are important to enable the

safe and controlled series of small burns that specifically target undergrowth and debris from eucalyptus species that accumulates over the years, which, if not dealt with, becomes a significant fire risk.

Surprisingly, the requirement for dry soils is not a consideration.

In fact, the fuel load, once ignited, will burn following periods of wet weather. Small areas of approximately 20 metres by 10 metres were lit in succession.

The control of these smaller fires allows fence lines to be protected. The heat generated is sufficient to remove the undergrowth and accumulated leaf litter, without damaging the mature trees.

The resulting cleared area also allows old stump holes to be filled with rocks and these areas made suitable for slashing and mowing, further reducing the need to burn in future years and providing grassed areas between the trees for wildlife.

Rod and Anthea thanked Rodney for his time and willingness to impart valuable knowledge so they can better steward and care for the land.