Fire management at Wongalara

Fire management at Wongalara

Wildfires – fires that occur in the late dry season, burning at high intensity across large areas – are a major threat to biodiversity in the Top End.  If not managed, such fires can cover hundreds of thousands of hectares. 

Fire management at Wongalara involves prescribed burning in the early dry season (usually April-May) and, if required, fire suppression in the late dry (August – December). Prescribed burning is delivered by aerial incendiary operations – dropping incendiaries from helicopter – with supplementary ground burning operations. 

Prescribed burning is intended to break-up country, creating a patchwork of fuel loads of different ages.  This limits the spread of any wildfires later in the year (they go out, or can be put out, when they reach country which was burnt in prescribed operations) and, importantly, ensures that the landscape contains patches of vegetation that is old growth (which many animals need for food and shelter).

AWC’s fire management at Wongalara has substantially changed fire patterns across the property, reducing the impact of wildfires and operating as a showcase for effective fire management in the region:

  • In 2014, AWC staff flew more than 1,200 kilometres and dropped more than 4,400 aerial incendiaries as part of prescribed burning operations.
  • AWC has reduced the proportion of the annual firescar on Wongalara caused by late season fires from over 60% to around 20%.
  • AWC has increased the extent of “old growth” vegetation and dispersed it more evenly across the landscape, reducing the average distance from burnt to unburnt vegetation from 1.7 kms to 0.7 kms.