Brush Fire

Ring of Fire

Lots of smoke and distant fire added some unexpected interest to our 3 day stay in rustic Binna Burra Lodge Mountain Lodge.  Burns like this hadn’t happened for several decades, and we were told we were lucky to be there for the show.

Smoke visible on the far side of Ships Stern

About an hour directly west of Brisbane, in an area referred to as the Gold Coast Hinterland, (Queensland, Australia), Binna Burra, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, is surrounded by the Lamington National Park.  Warned that the Parks and Wildlife Service would be deliberately setting brush fires, looking out our bedroom window, we first noticed smoke about noon on Wednesday, coming from the far side of a sharp ridge to the east called Ships Steer.

View from our room at Binna Burra lodge at 3:15pm on Wed Aug 28.

By 3pm, it was clear that the fire had crested the peak of Ships Steer and was heading west, and by 4:15, flames were visible on the far side of the valley.

Visible Flames

Although a deep valley and a rain forest would probably keep the fire from reaching the lodge, by evening, the smoke smell was pervasive, spreading miles to the west, and creating an extraordinarily long and colorful sunset.

Smokey Sunset

By dark, Ships Steer was crowned with a ring of fire, making a surprisingly pretty show from our balcony.  Besides the flames, smoke and smell, we could actually hear the distant roar of the bush fire, with an occasional popping sound.

Ring of Fire

Burning is a natural part of these Australian forests, and some plants actually require the heat from a fire to germinate.  Getting roasted is a natural signal to the seeds that they are now in a cleared area and will have access to the sun. 

View from Bellbird Lookout

By Thursday, the fire had moved south along along Ships Steer, reaching Charraboomba Rock.  Although the entire crown had just experienced what appeared to be intense fires, from a distance, the canopy of the trees still appeared green. That night, the smoke was much more annoying, creating a significant haze, and mostly obscuring the sunset. There were only small glimpses of fire visible from our room.

BinnaBurra-8331

Leaving the lodge and park on Friday, we stopped at Rosins Lookout to look up valley and see the last few traces of smoke. A ranger was making notes, and looking at Ships Steer through binoculars, so I stopped to chat with him.  He said that he and several other rangers had started the fires with handheld igniters, and they were very pleased with how successfully the burn had gone. He explained that after 20 years without a fire, dried brush was piled at least thigh high, presenting a serious risk of uncontrolled fire.  By deliberately burning in the winter, with cool nights (by their standards) and relatively high humidity (by their standards), a slow burn would consume the low lying brush, without harming the canopy.   He expected that they would reopen that section of the park to visitors within a few days, and that it would have new wild flowers immediately after the next rain.

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