Fire on the Mount: is it time to sacrifice campfires?

Prompt action by firefighters confined a potentially dangerous fire on Mount Alexander to less than half a hectare on February 4th.

As the photo below shows, the fire, though confined in area, was not a minor affair. We believe it started from a neglected campfire. The site is only a couple of hundred metres from Leanganook campground, which has been heavily used on summer weekends.

Part of the Mount Alexander fire area. A small fire, but with significant damage.

There seems to be a widespread belief that our bush is so flammable that it could spontaneously go up at any minute. So this might be the occasion to brush up on a few stats to do with the actual causes of fire. Here they are:

‘The majority of bushfires are started either intentionally or unintentionally, by people.

‘The Institute [of Criminology] found the top attribution was “suspicious” followed by “accidental”.2:

  • Suspicious 37%
  • Accidental 35%
  • Deliberate 13%
  • Natural 6%
  • Reignition/spot 5%
  • Other 4%’

There is a common idea that we are innocent victims, the bush is our enemy, and needs to be kept under control. It might be more accurate to say, we are the enemy of the bush.

Given the above figures, it’s quite surprising that campfires are even permitted in the fire season in Australia. Of course, fires are meant to be confined to proper fireplaces: but a quick look at Leanganook shows that campers have spread outside the main camping area, and some pretty dodgy campfire sites are easy to see.

Of course, a campfire is a romantic thing. A bushfire, not so much.

In any case, you would think a lot of resources would go into educating the public about fire behaviour. There are plenty of worthy programs around, but there’s obviously room for improvement in this area.

Not very Fun fact: Every year, more than 4500 fires across Australia are caused by cigarettes and at least 77 people lost their lives in fires started by cigarettes between 2000 and 2005. OK, that stat is a bit out of date, but bizarrely, in 2019, more than 200 people were caught tossing a lit cigarette out of a vehicle in NSW.

And here’s an even less fun fact: according to According to Chloe Hooper, ‘It is estimated that only 1% of bushfire arsonists are ever caught.’

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1 Response to Fire on the Mount: is it time to sacrifice campfires?

  1. Rachael Quirk says:

    Given that I’m currently banned from Hardcore Harcourt for robustly expressing my views about the changed goalposts of Lalarrbagauwa and the inability of many Mountain Bike Riders to obey signs relating to the area, I’m pleased to be consulted here.

    -I walk through Lalarrbagauwa/Leanganook daily.
    – I notice that we don’t appear to have an active Ranger?
    – The police drive up to the Oak forest sometimes.
    -Fires have been lit all through this summer at both campgrounds at at other locations. I’ve got lots of photo evidence!
    – I noticed less fires last summer season, apart from Jan 26.
    – I think that there should be a blanket rule of ‘No Fires in Summer’ or face a
    -I think Trangier type cookers should be considered to enable cooking.
    -I saw people receive a fine from Rangers at Kooyoora State Park (Melville Caves) and word passed around pretty quickly.
    – I have Winter campfires on the Mount in safe places with access to water or a fire extinguisher.
    – Bushfires are NOT romantic!
    Thank you!

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