4
$\begingroup$

The Australian fires are the biggest anyone has ever seen and is increasing at a rapid rate causing smog all around the country, approximately 1 billion animals have lost their lives, as of 9 January 2020. The firefighters are rescuing people and animals and doing their best.

But How do you stop such a huge fire? I've heard of a way where in tons of sand are deployed through jets but fire at such a huge scale i wonder how that is gonna help.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

As of 7 January 2020, the total area burnt by the fires in the whole of Australia is 8.4 million hectares (21 million acres; 84,000 square kilometres; 32,000 square miles. That is equivalent in area to the nations of Austria or the United Arab Emirates. Greater in area than the Czech Republic, Ireland or Sri Lanka.

The vast majority of that has been on the eastern side of the country, in New South Wales (49,000 sq km) and Victoria (12,000 sq km). In Western Australia, the area has been 15,000 sq km and has forced the closure of the southern road between east and west twice.

With many fires burning in many areas the only course of action is to let the fires burn out by themselves. The efforts of fire fighting crews is to mainly protect areas from being burnt: properties and ecological regions of significance, such as the region containing Wollemi pines and other forested areas.

Dumping sand, as you inquire about, has problems: from where to source the sand, the amount of sand required, how to dump the sand, will the dumped sand have a negative environmental impact afterwards.

The fire fighting methods currently use in Australia are the same as with fire fighting practices for bush fires (wild fires) elsewhere. Fire are left to burn themselves out. The fringes of fires will be doused with water, either by ground crews and water trucks or via aerial bombardment, with water bombers (fixed winged aircraft or helicopters). Beating fire out is also used. Aerial bombardment will also include the used of fire retarding chemicals.

To prevent fires from spreading, firebreaks are also made, where large areas of ground are cleared of flammable material to prevent them from being ignited by ember attacks. This can also include the use of back burning, by fire crews, where forest is deliberately set alight by fire crews. This is only done when considered necessary and when weather conditions are favorable - wind directions and strength, humidity and temperatures.

The trouble with bush fires in Australia is eucalyptus is a significant species of Australian forests. Eucalyptus requires fire to regenerate. They also shed large quantities of leaves and bark that accumulate on forest floors. A controversial method of minimizing bush fires has been to burn forest deliberately in cooler periods, under more controlled conditions, to reduce the fuel load during the main summer fire season.

By not letting the fires burn themselves out, the unburnt leaf and bark litter on the forest floors will remain and accumulate presenting another fire problem for the future.

Australia will always burn, it's the nature of its forests. Bush fires are an expected, but unwelcome part of summer in Australia. What Australia needs is better forest fire management strategies.


Edit 28 July 2020

Recent information about the Gosper's Mountain mega blaze that burnt more than one million hectares.

Anatomy of a 'mega blaze' - text and short videos of about the fire, from ignition by lightening strike, advance, merger with three other fires and how it was fought.

Gosper's Hill 'mega blaze', a 13 minute long video.

| improve this answer | |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ Eucalyptus does not require fire, some species have an adaption and resprout after a fire. There are some Pine species "closed cone habit" where fire acts like a selection mechanism (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knobcone_pine). There one could say it requires a fire. But of course not too strong & long. And sources largely agree that the affected areas will not recover in the coming decades. $\endgroup$ – user18607 Jan 7 at 10:53
  • $\begingroup$ @ebv: Eucalypts require fire to remove dense undergrowth so they can regenerate. Some species hold their seed in very had capsules that will only open & release the seeds after they experience intense heat from fire. The seeds drop onto newly created fertilizing ash beds. $\endgroup$ – Fred Jan 7 at 12:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ebv: "Recover" is different from "recover on a human timescale". Forests don't generally work on human timescales. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jan 7 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf I know. But the outcome then is a different ecosystem; we can still name it recovery. In the case of these large fires there is a problem: time is running out to keep potential carbon sinks. My point was, Eucalyptus grows better without fire, it does not require fire (some species actually cold). But the down under ones are pretty well adapted, as long as the fires are not to long & strong, burn everything, sterilize the ground, all that. I am not fighting, just pointing out :-) $\endgroup$ – user18607 Jan 7 at 19:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Controlled burns during cool periods are fuel reduction burns that primarily affect the understory. They are helpful but the megafires are driven through the crowns and not influenced much by that fuel load. Fire breaks are of limited use in the forest because spot fires start kms ahead of the main fire front. The extreme heat of this fire type inhibits future regeneration. $\endgroup$ – haresfur Jan 7 at 22:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.