Fire will be reintroduced to the Tathra landscape this week, 14 weeks after dozens of firefighters rushed to the town to try and extinguish flames that went on to destroy 65 homes and damage many more.
Parts of the forest to the west of Tathra will be re-burnt by the Bega Local Aboriginal Land Council’s (Bega LALC) Cultural Burning Team in a “surgical intervention” designed to help the fragile environment heal and restore itself.
Bega LALC CEO Glenn Willcox says the intervention is needed on ridge and spur country on Aboriginal land above Tathra.
“The forest floor here is now covered in a carpet of dry leaves that have fallen from the tree canopy that was scorched during the wildfire back in March,” he says.
“A cool burn on this sand ridge country before springtime will allow grasses and small shrubs to sprout and grow, instead of being smothered by all the dead leaves.”
If the carpet of leaves is left in place then this would allow bracken fern to once again dominate the understory and continue a cycle of heavy forest fuels regrowth.
“Our planned cool-burning of this area aims to act as a kind of surgical intervention to help make the bush healthy and bring it alive once again,” Mr Wilcox explains.
“The return of a cultural burning regime to this country should help to reassure Tathra residents that forest fuel loads will be kept low, whilst improving the plant and animal diversity and maintaining a beautiful landscape for people to visit.”
In 2017, with support from the NSW Rural Fire Service, the Bega LALC commenced a cultural burning program on Aboriginal land west of Killarney Road in Tathra, cool- burning 14 small patches of the forest in a mosaic pattern.
Mr Wilcox believes, this work made a major difference to the behaviour and outcome of the March wildfires at Tathra, with the bushfire running out of fuel as it hit these green patches; which he says contributed significantly to the fact that there were no houses lost near Killarney Road.
“Because there is not much fuel left to burn there should not be much smoke to bother people from this strategic cool burning program,” he says.
“If Tathra residents do notice smoke from these fires during June and July, they should not be alarmed – rather they should feel reassured that the forest is being made healthy and safe.”
Weather permitting, the Land Council’s Cultural Burning Team will start cool burning operations on the high ridge country east of Thompson Drive and west of Killarney Road on Tuesday, June 19, the work will continue into July.