vvStory and pictures copyright © 2000 Julia Hazel
Yo ho ho, and off to work we go.
The objective was to reduce the risk of fire invading an area of the forest where these unusual ant plants grow. (More about ant plants a little later.)
First stage was preparing a narrow fire break through the forest surrounding the ant plant area. Our tools (carried in, like everything else) were heavy rake-hoes specially developed for clearing forest undergrowth by hand. Not your average suburban garden implements. And a task not to be compared with raking the back yard.
Lest anyone get the wrong impression, this was an equal opportunity work force -- I had to keep up with rake-hoe-ing too, despite a quick break to snap these pics.
What I didn't know until much later was that I had been landed with the heaviest rake-hoe of the lot!
Next came the scary bit! To widen the fire break we had to burn a strip on the outside of our cleared paths, while keeping watch along the paths to prevent the fire spreading across to the protection area. The burning had to be done section by section on suitable days.
The whole project was of course planned and closely supervised by the Ranger in charge, who has lots of experience and expertise in fire management. The timing of firing was particularly important, to be sure the vegetation was not so dry as to burn out of control, and the weather cool enough for the fire to go out overnight.
What struck me was that for someone at all conservation minded, it's psychologically incredibly hard to set fire to the bush deliberately, even for this worthy purpose. And at a practical level it was tricky too. Dampish patches of vegetation were extremely reluctant to keep burning, yet every now and then a bundle of dry tinder might flare up and catch you unawares.
Next: Ant Plant need a Break - Page 3