Burning country to keep it healthy

Martu rangers have been reinstating traditional fire regimes by using a combination of old and new technologies, including aerial ignition. This work is improving habitats for many threatened animals and reducing damage to important cultural sites and natural areas. 

Kunawarritji rangers, the newest ranger team, have only done a handful of burns and recently in consultation with KJ’s Healthy Country Fire Officer (Gareth Catt), have made good progress on ‘breaking up country’ through mosaic burning.

The team travelled approximately 100km east of Kunawarritji community towards a rockhole known as Nyarrkal. To access this high priority site burns were made along the track. This burn was the first time Kunawarritji rangers used drip torches. The drip torch created a fire front approximately  two km long that was pushed lightly by an easterly breeze. 

The Kunawarritji rangers also conducted burning nearby Karingkarra soak. This time, due to recent rainfall, the vegetation type and water content were significantly different, making the fire difficult to maintain. This resulted in an extremely patchy burn, one that hopefully will give the greatest returns to  biodiversity in the area. 

While the helicopter was in Punmu as part of the yintakaja (waterhole) mapping work the Punmu rangers undertook aerial burning. A number of the Punmu rangers are qualified to operate the aerial incendiary machine and set about targeting old to medium aged spinifex in the Lake Dora, Lake Auld and Karlamilyi areas.

The Punmu women rangers were able to have their first flight in a helicopter. The women used satellite firescar maps on the tablet to practice assessing fuel loads and identifying areas to target from the air. The women rangers completed a number of mosaic burns with support from senior women Nancy Chapman, Thelma Judson and Reena Rogers (RR) and KJ’s Fire Officer. Rangers expressed they would like to continue learning “two-way” about burning.

While some of the team were up in the air the rest of the rangers planned and conducted ground based burning activities near mulyamiji (great desert skink) sites in the Punmu area. Rangers used drip torches to create small fire breaks along two dune crests protecting the reptiles’ burrows and surrounding habitat from wildfire. The rangers also participated in discussions on the community burn plan around Punmu.