Bushfire

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Due to its mostly hot, dry climate, bushfires in Australia are frequently occurring events during the hotter months. Large areas of land are ravaged every year by bushfires which cause property damage and loss of life.

Certain native flora in Australia have evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction and fire events are an interwoven and an essential part of the ecology of the continent. In some eucalypt and banksia species, for example, fire causes seed pods to open, which allows them to germinate. Fire also encourages the growth of new grassland plants. Other species have adapted to recover quickly from fire.

For many thousands of years, Indigenous Australians people have used fire for a variety of purposes. These included the encouragement of grasslands for hunting purposes and the clearing of tracks through dense vegetation.

Major firestorms that result in severe loss of life are often named based on the day on which they occur, such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday. Some of the most intense, extensive and deadly bushfires commonly occur during droughts and heat waves, such as the 2009 Southern Australia heat wave, which precipitated the conditions during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in which 173 lost their lives.

Contents

Definition

Bushfires in Australia, are generally defined as any uncontrolled, non-structural fire burning in a grass, scrub, bush or forested area. Australia, being a geographically and meteorogically diverse continent, experiences many types of bushfires. Fires can be divided into two main categories, depending on topography of the area.

  • Hilly/mountainous fires - Burn in hilly, mountainous or alpine areas which are usually densely forested. The land is less accessible and not conducive to agriculture, thus many of these densely forested areas have been saved from deforestation and are protected by national, state and other parks. The steep terrain increases the speed and intensity of a firestorm. Where settlements are located in hilly or mountainous areas, bushfires can pose a threat to both life and property.
  • Flat/grassland fires - Burn along flat plains or areas of small undulation, predominantly covered in grasses or scrubland. These fires can move quickly, fanned by high winds in flat typography, they quickly consume the small amounts of fuel/vegetation available. These fires pose less of a threat to settlements as they rarely reach the same intensity seen in major firestorms as the land is flat, the fires are easier to map and predict and the terrain is more accessible for firefighting personnel. Many regions of predominantly flat terrain in Australia have been almost completely deforested for agriculture, reducing the fuel loads in these areas.

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