Advice for visitors using Dhimurru Designated Recreation Areas
Fire is an important part of our landscape. Plants and animals have co-evolved with fire and Yolŋu expert use of fire as a management tool. Yolŋu fire management over tens of thousands of years has largely shaped the landscape we see today. Well-timed, targeted and clever use of fire has notable ecological benefits, often significantly increasing biological productivity and biodiversity. As visitors to this country you are likely to encounter fires, particularly if you visit during the drier months.
During the dry season Dhimurru works alongside land owners to maintain a fire regime that aims to emulate traditional burning techniques and promotes. This involves burning country in a prescribed way, with different types of burns for different areas and burning to help to keep country open or to break up solid patches of fuel, to control weeds to promote new plant growth for wildlife to utilise, or to protect resources by carefully reducing fuel loads.
As is the case in other areas of Australia, fires should be treated with caution. In this part of the world however the risks of intense fast fires are much less than in other parts of Australia. Our savanna vegetation produces far less flammable oils and has an open woodland structure.
During the camping season (early through mid-dry season) fires are generally of low intensity, produce a patchy burn do not travel quickly and have a low flame height all representing low risk. Nonetheless, fires are to be avoided. Apart from the danger open flames pose to people and equipment, the associated smoke can be hazardous to your health, particularly for those who suffer respiratory complaints, and can reduce visibility creating traffic hazards. Be particularly aware that trees can be weakened by fire and may fall over during and after a burn.
Hot late season fires can be very damaging as they reach up into the tree canopy and threaten wildlife. Generally we avoid late season fires and take care to burn country at the right time. People are less likely to be out camping in these conditions because it is hot and uncomfortable.
When visiting our recreation areas we recommend you take care to ensure that vehicles and camping equipment are kept in the open areas we have established. We do not recommend driving through an area whilst it is burning but rather postpone your travel until the fire has passed. Always stay on the tracks and be particularly careful to assess trees close to the road or your camp that may be at risk of falling. If you have a respiratory complaint you should take extra care to make sure that you are not going to be caught in a smoky environment. Keep an eye out on the horizon for smoke and be aware of wind direction and strength. Plan ahead and if you think you are at risk then take precautions. If there is time you may choose to leave the area but otherwise make sure the area around your camp and vehicle is clear. There is no need to panic and you will be safe as long as you stay on tracks and cleared areas, and carefully assess trees adjacent to you.