Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tales of Bush Fires and Banksias

Gas Reef. No point waiting around.

Blackened old branches from a past fire, with new plants sprouting up to replace them.

Margaret River was on fire last week.
The little town in Western Australia, famous for producing high quality Bordeaux style wines and world class, heavy, waves was being threatened by an enormous and ferocious bush fire that was started as a "controlled burn" by the authorities (on a 37 degrees Celcius day??!) but which quickly spread beyond it's planned boundaries burning an area of 3,400 hectares.
Photos taken from outside the town's fire station (at the end of the street that I used to live on) showed the sky west towards the coast filled with thick smoke. The fire raged along the coastline west of Caves Road, burning through the beachside communities of Redgate, Gnarabup and Prevelly destroying 31 homes, 9 tourist chalets and a historic house (dating back to 1865 so historic by modern Aussie standards). This is one of the most wave rich stretches of coastline on one of the most wave rich continents on the planet, but I guess that that fact was no longer relevant to the residents sheltering on the beach while their homes were razed. One guy got his wife to safety then returned to defend his home from the fire; he stuffed rags into the gutters and attached sprinklers to the rooftop then, when the flames started to engulf neighbours homes he pulled on a scuba tank and mask and jumped in his neighbours pool, laying on the bottom for 5 minutes whilst the fire passed overhead. His home was saved, deservedly so I reckon.

My friend Krede, who lives in Margs, checking the waves at Redgate. Probably less green and more black around here right now.

WA is a state familiar with bushfires. Has been forever. Banksias are Australian wildflowers perfectly adapted to the regularity of fires resulting from the scorching sun beating down on the tinderbox scrub and bush. Roughly half of the banksia species are killed by fire but the fire stimulates the opening of their seed bearing follicles and the germination of seeds in the ground. The other half have bark so thick that the trunk is protected, or they have tubers underground that resprout straight after a fire event. The communities of Gnarabup and Prev'll do just that I reckon; resprout and bounce back.

It's too early in the season for this fire to affect this season's wine vintage, and nothing'll stop these waves continuing to break on the limestone reefs fringing this beautiful coast. Good luck down there.


1 comment:

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