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Arson has evolved from a wrongful individual act into an effective means of collective violence. Murtada al Mousawy

Burn after reading: a short history of arson

We’ve been burning things for hundreds of thousands of years. Australian Aboriginals practised fire-stick farming to regenerate the soil and drive out animals for hunting. Yet manmade fires not only enable…
Canary grass is an invasive plant, but new varieties are still being developed for pasture. Stuart Hay

Feed or weed? New pastures are sowing problems for the future

Weeds cost Australian farmers around A$4 billion every year — and they are likely to do a similar amount of damage to the environment. In a new global survey published this week in Proceedings of the National…
Five years on, the bush and people are recovering well from the Black Saturday fires. AAP Image/Joe Castro

Five years on from Black Saturday, most survivors are doing OK

Five years on from the devastating Black Saturday fires that swept through central Victoria in February 2009, research shows that people and communities are largely recovering well. In the first major…
Coalmining poses risks that can’t be managed away. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre Hazelwood

The real disaster, at Hazelwood and elsewhere, is brown coal itself

Fittingly for a report on a huge fire, the findings of the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry act as a smokescreen for the bigger issues behind the disaster. Partly because of its narrow terms of reference, the…
The blaze was eventually extinguished 45 days after it was sparked by a grassfire. Country Fire Authority/AAP

The Hazelwood mine disaster could easily have been avoided

The Hazelwood coalmine fire, which burned for 45 days earlier this year, was a catastrophe for the town of Morwell in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley. Homes were blanketed in smoke and ash, many residents were…
Firefighters say they have the Hazelwood mine fire under control, but it’s still expected to burn for some time. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre hazelwood

Stronger laws needed to prevent another Hazelwood coal mine fire

The Hazelwood coal mine fire shows that Victoria’s current mining laws are not strong enough to prevent a similar disaster in the future. While the mine’s owner GDF SUEZ has vehemently rejected claims…
For millennia, humans have had the tools to change the atmosphere: when will we develop a sense of caution? AK Rockefeller/Flickr

Human global domination began with fire, not factories or farms

The era in which humans have had the power to alter the conditions for all life on Earth is widely thought to have begun with the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago. This era has been dubbed the “Anthropocene…
Firefighters battling the blaze at an open-cut coal mine in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, with Hazelwood power station in the background. AAP Image/Incident Control Centre Hazelwood

Victoria’s coal fire poses a rare challenge for firefighting

Victoria’s Hazelwood coal mine is still burning, nearly three weeks after it started from a grassfire during severe fire conditions. Police are currently investigating the original fire for arson. Meanwhile…
Too few Australian bushfire preparedness plans consider people with disabilities. Giant Gingko/Flickr

Bushfire planning leaves behind people with disabilities

When bushfires start, no one should be more worried than people with disabilities. Recent research shows people with disabilities are twice as likely to die or be injured than the general population during…
Fire zone: bushland ablaze in the Perth Hills. AAP

Bushfires: rural residents are the solution, not the problem

The return of heatwaves and bushfires to the news pages has brought fresh warnings that Australians who live in fire-prone zones still don’t fully understand the risk they are running. Deadly fires in…
For firefighters, as for communities, knowing when to leave makes all the difference. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts

Know when to go: a new way to keep firefighters safe from harm

For a firefighter, knowing when it’s time to evacuate can be the difference between life and death. But that can be a difficult call to make when you’re trying to protect life, property and resources while…
The aftermath of the bushfires that swept through the Blue Mountains last October. AAP Image/High Alpha

Our deadly bushfire gamble: risk your life or bet your house

News images of traumatised homeowners huddled in front of the ashes of their homes have become increasingly familiar in recent years. But the question has to be asked - why are we so often surprised when…
People living in the bush can’t rely too heavily on controlled burn-offs to protect their home. AAP Image/Channel Ten

Which homes will survive this bushfire season?

After the early onset of the 2013-14 bushfire season, it is worth reviewing which homes are more likely to be left standing when the fires inevitably return. One of the most important factors to note is…
Firefighters battle a bushfire close to homes in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, in October this year. AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Climate Council’s Code Red bushfire warning

Australians have always had to live with bushfires - but climate change is driving that fire danger even higher. And we’re not talking about a distant threat to future generations. According to real observations…
Firefighters have plenty of ideas about disaster management - so why don’t we listen? AAP/Dan Himbrechts

What firefighters say about climate change

You do not find many climate change sceptics on the end of [fire] hoses anymore… They are dealing with increasing numbers of fires, increasing rainfall events, increasing storm events. – A senior Victorian…
Smoke from deliberately lit forest fires is destroying the health of Southeast Asians, and looks set to be a yearly event. EPA/Amriyadi Bahar

Southeast Asian smoke warns of never-ending fires

Look at satellite images from Southeast Asia this week and you will see large areas of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore blanketed by dense plumes of smoke. These smoke plumes have severely degraded ground-level…
Giant eucalypts like this swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans) tower over an understory of rainforest plants, and are dependent on fire for their survival. Flickr/freelancing god

We need to think about fire in Tasmania’s forests

Forest activist Miranda Gibson’s 15-month stay up a giant eucalypt has been interrupted by bushfire. Meanwhile Tasmania’s forestry peace deal, now being considered in the state’s upper house, has drawn…
An early season burn in Arnhem Land. Low intensity fires decrease greenhouse emissions and increase carbon stored in trees. Brett Murphy.

Savanna burning: carbon pays for conservation in northern Australia

Fire and biodiversity have a complex relationship in northern Australia. Tim Flannery and others blame the current northern biodiversity crisis, at least in part, on changed fire regimes. Improving fire…
Victoria’s alpine forest is burning more often, changing the landscape and reducing its ability to store carbon. AAP Image/Australian Workers Union

Ash to ashes – what could the 2013 fires mean for the future of our forests?

In the high country of Victoria, firefighters are presently battling a large bushfire that is moving through the forests south of Harrietville and past the second highest mountain in Victoria, Mt. Feathertop…

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