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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wingecarribee Swamp fire now in peat bed.

Wingecarribee Dam Grass Fire
LOCATION: Old Kangaloon Rd Burrawang
COUNCIL AREA: Wingecarribee
STATUS: Being Controlled
TYPE: Grass fire
SIZE: 11 ha
UPDATED: 19 Jan 2013 10:11

That is from the RFS "Current Fires and Incidents" web page.

This is my own "home made map of the area of the fire (as best I can gauge it after a visual inspection).

Well, this may well have started as a grass fire, and it was handled initially (and very quickly) by the RFS people. But it is now a fire in the peat bed in the swamp in the upper reaches of the Wingecarribbee Swamp.
It is now being attended to by Sydney Catchment Authority officers.

Problem is peat fires, no matter how small, are difficult to extinguish, because, there is little free oxygen available to the fire, so it smoulders. But the heat generated within the base of the fire is considerable. So, normal amounts of water from small fire hoses tend to simply cause the water to vapourise, not quench the fire.

The good thing is that the grass (from which the fire started) has burnt already. So, there is little risk of this fire spreading to unburnt grass - which is what concerns the local residents and farmers who live adjacent to the top end of the Wingecarribee Swamp and the railway line which leads into Robertson.

My friends Alan and Louise who live on the western edge of Robertson, saw smoke coming from the direction of the Swamp, and "called it in" to 000.

Within minutes of their call having been registered, they saw the first of the local RFS vehicles leave the base, and head towards the fire. Subsequently some 4 other RFS teams arrived (from the South Coast and maybe other areas in the Southern Highlands), and several small Helicopters, and one large water bomber.

The result is that the grass fire was contained very quickly. A good thing, given the record breaking heat of yesterday and the strong north-westerly winds.

It just remains for the fire, which has now caught alight in the peat bed, to be extinguished. That may take some time. But as I have already indicated,. I believe the risk of spreading to adjacent areas of long grass, and to other farms, or to residential areas on Robertson is low. Simply because the highly flammable grasses have already burnt. The Peat Fire is within an area where the long grass has already been burnt out.

My first view of the fire
Blackened grass, smoke and yellow-clad fire-fighters

A closer view smoke rising from the peat bed
which is at the top end of the
Wingecarribee Swamp.

A team of SCA vehicles and fire fighters

A closer view.

An SCA officer trying to spray the peat fire
with a small hose, fed from a pump on the
back of the Utility Vehicle.

A distant view.
Looking towards the hills of Kangaloon
from the Wingecarribee Swamp area,
below Burrawang Station Lane.
Alan was very keen that I report how impressed he was with the "professionalism" of the RFS people, and their quick response.

Alan is not someone who is given to "false praise". He has some on-going issues with the Council people who have not responded well to his many requests for intervention regarding the Robertson Sewerage Scheme, and the damage done to local properties by Lucas Engineering, and the Council's failure to ensure that simple matters of damage to a local farmer's fences and dams (both of which are vital in the event of a grass fire).

But today he was singing the praises of the volunteers of the RFS. And I agree entirely.

It is Volunteers who are keeping this country running, because Governments by and large have lost control of the myriad of responsibilities they have taken on. So, the local people step in to try and prevent a catastrophe.


Mac_fromAustralia said...

I had no idea there was anything near you. But then I suppose there are so many in these awful conditions and here are some serious ones which have been keeping the media's attention. Hope all stays safe in your area, and gentle rains help to put the fires out.

Joy_Division said...

Very impressed with your coverage of this fire. I was very interested becase I used to manage all the environmental programs associated with the swamp and understand the implications of fire in the peat not being extinguished. Today's rain will help and the SCA SE catchment team are fantastic resource to manage what is going on. Hopefully this rain prevails for the next week or so as some forecasts are indicating.
Thanks again for maintaining such an informative site associated with one of the greatest environmental icons in NSW or nationally. Very pleased that Salix cinerea continues to be sustainably managed as that had real potential to turn the swamp into an almost monoculture of willow.

Denis Wilson said...

Sorry for delayed response.
My Blogger notification of comments is not working - for some reason.
Very annoying.
Thanks for comments.
I can now report that after several days of rain, and at least one day with sprinklers running where the fire was, and good steady rain overnight and today (Monday 28th) the fire is assumed to be out.
Hoses have been turned off and removed.
Joy, I would be interested to learn more about your involvement with the Wingecarribee Swamp.
Could you pls email me
peonyden (at) gmail (dot) com
Denis Wilson.