Rangelands NRM Blog, News & Resources

News: Joint efforts to address destructive wildfire impacts on the Kimberley’s Dampier Peninsular

Fire management stakeholders came together recently to share knowledge with the aim of collaboratively reducing the impact of late season, unmanaged wildfires on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome.

The Peninsula sees frequent late season wildfires that cause large-scale destruction and threaten wildlife, biodiversity and communities.

The workshop was organised by Rangelands NRM through funding from the Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) AWARE (All West Australians Reducing Emergencies) Program.

It brought together representatives from Kimberley Indigenous Rangers groups: Bardi Jawi, Oorany, Nyul Nyul and Yawuru, the Departments of Parks and Wildlife, Aboriginal Affairs and Fire and Emergency Services, pastoralists, and the local Shire.

Through this collaboration, the group identified three joint projects for the Dampier Peninsula in the coming year:

  1. Fire leadership and co-ordination
  2. Implement a fire management strategy
  3. Improved use of existing science, knowledge and monitoring in fire management on the Dampier Peninsula.

Kimberley Program Manager, Grey Mackay, said it was a pivotal workshop with some immediate actions and longer term outcomes.

“It was great to see everyone come together, putting aside differences to try to do things differently. A taskforce was created to address the immediate 2017 fire risk as well as a focus on a holistic process to manage fire better on the Peninsular into the future,” he said.

The workshop participants agreed to five strategies:

  1. A cooperative approach to resourcing and operations
  2. Agreed on-ground fire management
  3. Developing a shared plan
  4. Improved education and awareness of the role and management of fire
  5. Building knowledge on fire and management practices through improved science and monitoring.

Mr Mackay, said that with increased on-ground and aerial efforts towards fire mitigation, the aim is to reduce the need for fire suppression later in the year.

“With the significant rains we’ve had this year, there is plenty of fuel and a high risk of large fire this season,” he said.

“By coordinating effort, we are aiming to open communication between neighbours so people know what one another are doing and when.

“This allows for plans to align and connect with neighbouring efforts, which makes sense because we can continue work in an area without having to stop at a property boundary,” he added.

Mr Mackay said the urgency was shared by all stakeholders to change the current fire regime and get started on actions and strategies to improve the outlook.

He said the group agreed that the Peninsula has significant assets requiring protection – life, property, conservation, culture.

“There was consensus that change requires active fire management, including planned ignition, communication, and collaboration on all aspects of fire management,” he said.

It was recognised that working together across the whole Peninsula needs additional resources and skills, a common plan and a coordination of joint effort.

He said the group had recently produced a flyer that is being distributed to local tourist locations and communities to inform them of current actions and importance of proactive fire management.

The coordination of effort is being led by Rangelands NRM. This will involve sharing current plans, and consolidating them to identify gaps. It will require open communication by land managers and bringing in expertise.

Image: Workshop participants discussing strategies to reduce unmanaged wildfires on the Dampier Peninsular. February 2017. L to R: Stuart Cowell (Standing) Facilitator, Murray Hatton DFES, Pius Gregory and Johani Mamid Yawuru Country Managers. (© G. Mackay)