Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Kangaroo Island Fires Under Control

A fire the size of Singapore has been brought under control on Kangaroo Island to the southwest of Adelaide. These are exactly the types of fires predicted by scientists as Australia gets hotter and drier. Luckily only one person was killed, but over 30,000 hectares or about a fifth of the island was burned. Thousands of volunteer firefighters from all over the state have been living in tent cities trying to control the fires. A massive relief effort was mounted by the government and supported by volunteers and the Salvation Army, who mobilised to feed and shelter the volunteers. There is grave concern for the tourist industry which forms a huge part of the economy there. This is early summer and it is already very dry and hot across the state. This kind of event could happen at any time.

The western part of Kangaroo Island is quite sparsely populated, but a fire like that brought smoke to Adelaide and Port Augusta and displaced large wildlife populations. Kangaroo Island has many kangaroos (Well D'uh!) and koalas. So many infact that there are organised culls. Based on my trip there in 2007, many are killed on the roads. What they don't need is for their entire habitat to be wiped out. No doubt it will rebound, but not necessarily quickly.

A fire on the Cape York Peninsula in the last few years killed 9 people and burned huge areas of farmland. These kinds of natural hazards are likely to become more normal here in Australia. Even my garden is very brown, with the limitations on watering. I wonder if this is a public safety issue even in suburban areas?


jmb said...

Bushfires are such terrible things and ruin the land for years to come. Just thinking about the wildlife affected makes me shudder and the loss of even one life is horrible.

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