Fire of January 2006

At 2200 hrs on 19 January 2006 a dry thunder storm broke across the eastern edge of Pelican Lagoon. Lightening strikes occurred in mallee woodlands.

Lightening strike east of Pelican Lagoon 19 Jan 06

Southerly winds fanned a lightening fire northwards. Over the following nine days winds alternated frequently from north to south and back again.

Wind shift

Fire lines were contained on the east and west boundaries as the fire burned back and forth against itself leaving islands of standing vegetation and charred standing timbre.

Cool burn with islands of standing vegetation

The fire area recorded traces of rainfall on five of the fire days.1 Winds subsided during most nights. At night the flames could be seen burning steadily through the mallee woodland with columns of flame reaching more than 70 meters into the sky.

Night fire

Night sky temperature gradient

Multiple fire fronts

On 28 January winds shifted significantly from the east and within 24 hrs the area received 15.2mm of rain.1 The fire threat to townships, community and native habitat was contained.

1Australian Bureau of Meteorology Station 22836 Rainfall Observations

Afternoon smoke

Smokey sunset across Pelican Lagoon

During the previous 69 days the area had received more than 150mm of precipitation. Combined with cool and foggy days these conditions provided a situation which produced a "biologically cool burn" resulting in charred trunks and low ash levels.

Biologically cool burn with standing timbre and low ash levels

The fire zone was ecologically a mallee regrowth area as the result of previous fires and partial clearing. Six kilometer biodiversity transects in 1990 and 2000 indicated a native plant diversity greater than 100 species.2 Native and exotic animals lived in the area.

Regenerated habitat from previous fire, chained back burn break in forground

Preliminary surveys within the fire zone were conducted during the rains. The first transects were surveyed 6 February 2006. 2 At this time there were numerous remaining hot spots with fires smouldering below ground. Smoke from burning stumps was present.

Burning termite mound

2 Land For Learning Pty Ltd, Pelican Lagoon Research & Wildlife Centre, 5222 SA, Rismiller et al.

Biologically this was the courtship, mating and egg laying season for Rosenbergs Goanna (Varanus rosenbergii). It was also the end of the lactating season for the Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus multiaculeatus).

Rosenbergs Goanna track in ash bed

The 6 Feb transect survey recorded 35 species of reptiles, birds and mammals active and thriving in the burn area. Invertebrates including spiders were abundant in the fire zone.

Velvet gecko

Rosenbergs goannas were continuing courtship from burrows exposed by the fire. Echidna were observed foraging at charred and down timber as well as open ground supporting abundant colonies of invertebrates.

Uninjured echidna in still smouldering burn area

Fresh echidna foraging for soil invertebrates

Epicormic growth was recorded at the base of four species of plants and five germinating species were recorded.

Opened hackea seed pods and sprouting mallee lignatubor

Sprouting lignatubor

Native iris (Orthrosanthus multiflorus) regrowth

Slime moulds, puff balls and gill mushrooms were thriving in ash pools among rock outcrops, charred timbre and burned out termite mounds.

Slime moulds and fungi in burned out termite mound

Fungi growing in ash

Burned out termite mound

Insect eating birds were foraging and some nectar feeding species were recorded in unscourched islands of woodlands still in flower. Sightings of live wallaby and western grey kangaroo were made. One injured and three dead macropods were recorded on the edge of the burn area outside the transect lines. New growth was recorded on damaged termite mounds.

Regenerating termite mound in fire zone

Burned short-beaked echidna in base of mallee

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