Australian Institute of Alpine Studies

Bushfires 2003

Ken Green, 22 Jan 2003 - Kosciuszko NP, New South Wales

Hello all.

I can only give an update on mountain fires in Kosciuszko National Park part 1 (Kossy has of course been split between two management regimes and I don't have a part in the regional structure of the northern end). Updates for the ACT and Victoria would be useful if anyone can provide them.

Basically the fires all seemed to begin in a 30 minute period when a wild electrical storm moved across from west to east. This started small easily extinguished fires on the Main Range, none in the Schlinks Pass area where I had to shelter from the rain as multiple lightning strikes went to earth. Approximately 44 fires were started. The problem lightning strikes leading to fires were all north and west of the line of the Main Range.

Fires moved in various directions under different landscape and wind conditions. There are too many fires to comment on individually but here are a few important fires ecologically.  
TheTooma dam area fires moved north-west into the Dargals taking out most of the corroboree frog bogs there (Dave Hunter and Craig Smith are currently surveying these bogs post-fire). Intensive efforts over four days kept a three-pronged fire assault out of Snakey Plain (when last seen it was surrounded by blacked out vegetation).

We evacuated (ran away) from the Grey Mare Hut area on Friday when everything turned pear shape. Crews on the north of the line headed out via Tooma Dam while we took the high road out via Valentines and Schlinks. There is a bulldozer in at  Grey Mare Hut  but no-on is game to go in and get it. I took a look down towards Valentines Hut two days later but visibility was not good. We know the fire jumped the Grey Mare Fire Trail around Smiths Lookout and is burning in the area from Jagungal to Eucumbene Dam.

The Main Range acted as a fire break.  Most of the western faces have been burnt but as the flames came over the main ridge line and hit the alpine herbfields they petered out. Snowgrass was only able to sustain the fire while it had the heat and winds coming from the western faces and in the Mt. Carruthers-Twynam area the fire only progressed 30-50 metres into the snow grass area. At the same time (on the worst two days so far - Friday and Saturday) a spotover burned on the south western side of Blue Lake. When I arrived at the location on Sunday morning it had only burned 10-15 ha and the active edge ("crowning"  through the snowgrass) was easily extinguished. There were a number of other spotovers - some burning areas as small as a carpet or rug. Thyere was a slightly larger one near the walkway between Thredbo and the Kossy summit. Snowgrass wasn't particularly flammable and snow daisies and pineapple grass almost have fire retardant status! Visibilit

There were a number of places where fire spotted over the Main Range - this was mainly due to long strips of burning bark and even as far away as my home in Berridale blackened leaves rained down. The fire spotted over to the south of Perisher Valley burning to within about 200 m of lodges. Another spotover started a fire low down on Pipers Creek above the Guthega Road. This has resulted in the burning of the block between the main Kossy Road and the Guthega Road with boundaries on the Link Road to the west and Sponars on the east, taking out much of the lower catchment of Pipers Creek. This fire crossed the road at Dainers Gap and buned back up the valley towards Smiggin Holes on both sides of the valley before turning south-east and linking with the Perisher Valley fire and another spotover on Rennix Gap and when I last heard of them they were hovering above Thredbo Valley.

Another fire has burned in the area west of Thredbo in the South Ramshead - Dead Horse Gap area. This includes the area surveyed only last year for the Biodiversity Blitz. This leads me to part of the reason for this email. A number of people have been working on research  plots which have now burned. While for some this may have actually  ruined the experiment (in my broad-toothed rat study my three non-fox-baited sites have burned while my three fox-baited sites are unburnt - so far); for others it presents an opportunity to take their research in a new direction - impacts of fire and recovery after fire. I had a long talk with Alec Costin yesterday and he is keen on a multi-disciplinary study - starting with full and virtually immediate low level aerial photography to see what communities have burned. Anyone who has research plots that have been surveyed before the fires and would like to be part of a 'big picture' post-fire study please get in contact and we wiI have been in the role of "field Intelligence" in these fires (I still haven't found an intelligent field) so have been roaming the mountains and getting into areas where currently we have no firefighters. However, following my medical clearance yesterday for my (ex) broken leg, I will probably be back in the more restricted role on the fireline so my knowledge of the fires will become more second-hand. I hope to keep you all informed, however, via other sources such as: Latest update 7 a.m. Wednesday (from Mary Green on night radio duties at Jindabyne). Fires are still threatening the Perisher Valley Smiggin Holes area, the Ramsheads are burning and Thredbo is still threatened. Fire crossed the Schlinks-Geehi Road at Dicky Cooper Creek and the Kerries are burning.

That's all folks.

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