Cultural burn at Tenterfield Park proves to be an ideal demonstration

Banbai ranger Merv Torrens keeps a close eye on the cool burn at Tenterfield Park on Tuesday.
Banbai ranger Merv Torrens keeps a close eye on the cool burn at Tenterfield Park on Tuesday.

The cultural burn demonstration at Tenterfield Park continues this week with theories of management calendars and scientific reasoning finally put into action, and the Banbai rangers are very pleased with the results.

Monday's burn of the first section of the planned mosaic was witnessed by members of the indigenous community along with students from Tenterfield High School.

They saw for themselves how the so-called cool burn, carried out at the right time of year under the right conditions, can achieve the effect of fuel reduction without leaving a scorched earth.

Head ranger Tremane Patterson said you know you have a good burn when the earth still feels cool to touch after the fire passes over, allowing creatures to survive under the leaf litter or giving them the opportunity to scurry away to unburnt areas.

"Once they smell the smoke they'll try to escape," Mr Patterson said.

Still the smoke billowing up through the trees will trigger seed germination for many natives, without burning out the tree canopy.

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Much of the park's fuel load is love grass, and Mr Patterson said it is preferable to burn out the weed on a regular basis rather than trying to control it with weedicides.

"It's better than pouring chemicals in it and killing the natives as well," he said.

"Then the chemicals run into streams and kill of fish as well."

He was satisfied with the proportion of green vegetation left after the burn. If the exercise had been left for hotter months, all of the vegetation could have been burned out.

This, indeed, was the ideal time of year to carry out the burn and to demonstrate the benefits.

The demonstration burn was fortunate in that the local topography is similar to that of Guyra where the Banbai rangers are based. They've also worked in Cape York under the direction of Traditional Burning Man Victor Stefferson where the land is flat, but Mr Stefferson assured them that the principles are the same.

It's about observation and allowing Mother Nature to guide the process, just as indigenous communities have looked after the land for thousands of years.

The rangers will be back in around six months' time to see which species have grown back and which are proliferating, and to observe bush tucker resources and even changes to bird life.

Mr Patterson is confident that in the meantime people from local partner organisation Moonbahlene will be keen to see what the cultural burn has achieved.

On Tuesday it was the turn of local Fire & Rescue personnel to observe the cultural burn, and fire captain John Gray said it was a great learning experience.

"It's useful to understand how the burn was conducted, and the concept of cool burning and mosaic burning."

Tenterfield Fire & Rescue personnel joined Banbai Rangers and Moonbahlene staff on the cool fire ground at Tenterfield Park on Tuesday.

Tenterfield Fire & Rescue personnel joined Banbai Rangers and Moonbahlene staff on the cool fire ground at Tenterfield Park on Tuesday.

Seven local Fire & Rescue personnel attended, along with the duty commander. Capt. Gray said there were some interesting points, such as when one of the rangers found a native cockroach under the leaf litter, unharmed by the fire which had passed overhead.

"It was interesting to see how the cold burns allow small insects to survive, and the calendars which track the different signs of plant life.

"We need to think more about that."

Rural Fire Service personnel are also interested in learning from the cultural burn.

The demonstration continues until Thursday, weather permitting. Due to COVID-19 restrictions contact Sam Des Forges on 0448 654 080 or Helen Duroux on 0428 276 843 to secure a place if you wish to observe.