The conversation Australia needs: should we prevent fires with prescribed burns or solar panels?
The wildfires in NSW so far have burned 2,700,000 ha or, if it were one square area –a box 164km x 164km and destroyed at least 720 houses (that was Dec 11).
The dilemma: will it be managed fires, or unmanaged wildfires to reduce the fuel? Or if you are Tim Flannery who says it’s “immoral not to connect the dots“, the question is “how many solar panels will it take to stop those houses burning down?” Or perhaps “how do we stop lightning”?
This is the rough size of the controlled hazard reduction target area, as carried out for NSW compared to the area of “hazard-reduction” by Mother Nature. The area of official hazard reduction by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is 135,000 ha, equivalent to a square of dimensions 36km x 36km. There would be some other private fuel reduction. Can anyone find figures for that?
To protect houses we need a 100m margin (at least) and to burn 20% of the landscape each year.
New South Wales NPWS fire ecologist, Ross Bradstock, said that to protect Sydney housing:
We have worked out you have to burn 20 per cent of the landscape per annum to significantly reduce the size of wildfires, fires under severe weather.(50)
The areas are approximate and were generated with the Google map area tool.
- Fuel reduction Target for NSW forestry = 135,000 ha (Daily Telegraph, Nov 2019)
- Wildfires (so far) = 2,700,000 ha (NSW Rural Fires Service — summed from the click to view “Table” 22-12-2019)
- Total area of forest in NSW = 27,000,000 ha
- Area of NSW = 80,000,000 ha. (Geoscience Australia)
The largest bushfires in Australian history:
- 1851 Black Thursday — Victoria 5,000,000 ha
- 1974/74 NSW 4,500,000 ha
- 1984/84 NSW 3,500,000 ha
- 2019 NSW 2,700,000 ha and still burning.
In other handy information, sometimes NSW officials don’t even meet their targets, and lightning causes 30% of fires:
In 2018 NSW burned 95,830 ha in fuel reduction (just 71% of the annual target of 135,000 ha) (NSW State of the Environment Report 2018, NSW EPA). “During the last 10 years, a third of fires in reserves were caused by lightning strike, which burnt 59% of the total area” (NSW State of the Environment Report 2018, EPA)
- Too much fuel causes extreme bush fires, not climate change
- Fires in August in 1951 in Queensland were described as “catastrophic” when CO2 was 311ppm
- Global warming means a global fall in wildfires
- California: maybe prescribed burns once every 500 years are not enough?
- Global hysteria about Amazon fires based on nothing but twitter pics
- Birds using aerial bombing with firesticks to light fires and flush out prey
- History repeats — in 1961, a 41 day inferno destroyed 160 buildings and burned a larger area in South-West WA
- Heat and fires from when CO2 was “ideal”: Black Thursday, 1851
- Fuel Loads Not Climate Change Are Making Bushfires More Severe
- ABC plan to stop bushfires with windmills and buckets of your cash
*Update: corrected the original 164km2 and 36km2 referred to the dimensions of the boxed theoretical area (Eg 164 x 164) which include an area of 27,000km2 and 1,350km2. Apologies that was not spelled out.