The majestic Pencil Pine: pushed to the brink

On Jan 13th 2016, approximately 70 lightning strikes hit the west of Tasmania.

About 20 of those strikes started fires.

So many lightning strikes. There were more than usual. However, fire caused by dry lightning in this area is totally expected. What was not expected is the devastation that followed.

Pencil pine lake mckenzie_RobBlakers1

Pencil Pine at Lake McKenzie, post-fire, 2016. © Rob Blakers

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Living in the line of fire

“Dense human settlements in eastern Australia are located in perhaps the biggest pile of flammable vegetation fuel on the planet.”

Prof. William Bond wrote this in a review of Flammable Australia. Fire Regimes, Biodiversity and Ecosystems in a Changing World. It was rather poignant that our correspondence regarding his book review was only a week after the Tasman Peninsula fires at Dunalley. The fires were burning 20 kms from our property, as the crow flies. The images below were taken from our house:

The Tasman Peninsula Fire, 4th January 2013. Images a,b,c and d show the progression of the fire with time shown. The arrow (image b) shows the height of the convection column. The height of this column demonstrates the strong winds and the direction the passage of embers which created spotting well in front of the firefront.

The Tasman Peninsula Fire, 4th January 2013. Images a,b,c and d show the progression of the fire with time shown. The arrow (image b) shows the height of the convection column. The height of this column demonstrates the strong winds and the direction the passage of embers which created spotting well in front of the firefront.

Fire wasn’t once the big topic it is now. Bond describes this in his review, citing that the subject, once in the ‘ghettos’ is now mainstream and now global: vegetation modelling; satellite imagery; historical accounts (we can include social media here); paleoecology; weather modelling; and fire behaviour science. Indeed with all these things fire ecology is bigger than it once was. But for me, the crux of the matter is in the words quoted above. Continue reading