Burning off; we don’t, do you?

Well it’s bushfire season again. spring would be my favourite time of year if not for bushfires. In this area most people burn around their homes before summer to protect them from bushfire, unfortunately the vast majority of bushfires start from these ‘controlled burns’ when the wind changes and the fire becomes ‘uncontrolled’. The whole argument for and against burning can get very ‘heated’, we don’t burn but we do take some steps to protect our home from fire, now and in the future.
The CSIRO is of the opinion that fire is an essential part of our ecosystem and that we need to continue the practice to maintain the bush. Most people seem to agree with the notion that the Aboriginal peoples used fire to change the landscape so we should too, but they seem to forget that fire was used as a hunting tool and to clear migration paths not as an ecological aid. Aboriginal peoples gradually changed the ecology by using fire; species that survive and even need fire gradually became more common and the ecosystem became more and more fire friendly.
 Many Australian species rely on hot fires to germinate seedlings, these same plants are usually the ones who drop lots of leaves in the spring, have very flammable bark and catch fire very quickly. Plants that have evolved to need fire for germination do everything in their power to produce the right conditions for fire (makes sense doesn’t it). Species that do not use fire to germinate tend to have more water stored in their leaves and stems, have smooth, non flammable (to a degree) trunks and stems and do not catch fire easily.

My reasoning for not burning is that species who don’t use fire and are not so flammable can find a haven here, around our humpy (at a distance of about 30 metres), and will slow the speed of fires advancing on our home simply by being less flammable. We don’t need to plant them, we just provide the right conditions for them to germinate (I hope). Instead of burning I choose to graze the area immediately around the humpy with sheep. The sheep clear the long, dry grass, the smaller eucalypt saplings and the lantana (slowly) and keep the area fairly bare. We also have a huge clean up every fire season to get rid of any rubbish we have lying on the ground that may provide a place for sparks to ignite. By rubbish I mean household rubbish not tree heads and such. We are gradually working to clear several piles of tree heads within the 30 metre radius of the humpy, we use them as hugelkultur material and firewood, we clear slowly so as to not kill or immediately dehome the little animals that have taken up residence in them since they were pushed up about ten years ago.

You can see how bare the ground is around the humpy

Our humpy is in a terrible position when it comes to fire danger; in a saddle at the top of a hill, a fire can come at us from any direction and be traveling uphill (and therefore faster) and the humpy itself has lots of nooks and crannies that would be spark friendly. Still we are working to correct these things and we haven’t had a fire here in the six years of our residence. We may be lucky enough to make our home fire proof enough to survive the next big fire season; as long as it’s not this year.
Do you burn off around your property? Do you feel safe from fires?
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