Fire history of the Australian Alps – Prehistory to 2003

Philip Zylstra, NSW NPWS
Australian Alps Liaison Committee, May 2006



Natural disasters such as droughts and bushfires could be seen as something core to the way Australians view themselves. As a young nation of people discarded by the British Empire, there was perhaps a kind of inevitability about the idea that God himself would occasionally torment them with such evils. The idea that they were not necessarily freak catastrophes but more the natural order of things for this dry continent was a long term perspective that would take many generations to gain. Today, with two centuries of history, there is still a widespread expectation that with certain simple management practices the risk of bushfires can be permanently done away with.

Whilst the effects of a fire (or a severe drought for that matter) are often disastrous, better understanding of the scale of what is ‘normal’ for an area may be very beneficial in improving planning to reduce unnecessary loss, both in a social and environmental sense. Collating the fire histories of the Australian Alps provides an opportunity to give a sense of scale and patterns to both planners and researchers.