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Australian firestorms prompt call to return to Aboriginal bush control

Modern woodland management practices over 30-40 years have created 'highest ever fuel concentrations' in south-eastern state

Source:  Copyright 2009, Guardian
Date:  February 9, 2009
Byline:  David Adam
Original URL: Status ONLINE

Fire has long been a feature of the Australian bush, with the plants and animals adapted to regular, natural infernos. For thousands of years, Aborigines lived with the flames too, using them to improve forest access and increase the size of hunting grounds.

But as more people have moved to live in the bush and the urban fringes, the risk to them and their property has grown.

The weekend's terrible death toll has already prompted questions about the country's "stay-and-defend" policy, which encourages homeowners to stay and fight the flames. Many victims are believed to have perished in their cars as they realised too late that they would not be safe if they had stayed.

There are also questions about the consequences of fire risk reduction measures practised over the last few decades: preventing regular fires means the amount of burnable wood grows year-by-year, risking even greater firestorms.

"The mismanagement of the ...

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