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Fire lessons to be learned from Aborigines

Breaking Earth News: Australia

Feb 27, 2007
Ancient Australian Aborigines may hold the key to battling huge bushfires which have blackened large parts of Europe, the US and Australia in recent years, fire experts said. Prehistoric Aboriginal people across Australia methodically burnt land to reduce the fierceness of natural bushfires, as well as to hunt and stimulate the growth of plants. They also understood that forest fuels should not go untended, in an early lesson for modern societies threatened by megafires triggered by climate change and rising world temperatures. "We have to figure out what we are reserving our forests for. If we are reserving them for big fires, then that's working well." Megafires occur when large bushfires merge and form super firefronts that burn with hurricane intensity, often levelling hundreds of homes and vast areas of bushland. Megafires in 2003 destroyed thousands of homes in France, Portugal, Spain, the US and Canada, while fires this year swept uncontrolled for more than a month through an area bigger than Lebanon in Australia's rugged southeastern Alps. Steady global temperature rises are leading to longer fire seasons across the world and megafires burn with such intensity that they leave little behind. "There are no refuges for fauna. Our choice is whether we burn frequently at low intensity in mild weather of our choosing, or whether we are subjected to the whims of nature."

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