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Nyanda Bushfires 2023: A Community's Resilience and Nature's Renewal

Our Story from the Carnarvon Gorge Fire Event.

Over a brief 10-day span, Nyanda underwent a profound transformation, losing nearly 90% of its land to a persistent fire that began just south of Carnarvon Gorge in early August. This blaze, called the ‘Carnarvon Complex Fire’ covered approximately 350,000 hectares, until the rain put it out.

Observing our back burning progress - Carnarvon National Park fire event.
Caity observing our second backburn.

The aftermath painted a stark picture, with areas so intensely burned that not a single tree remains alive. The journey to recovery will undoubtedly be lengthy, and the impact on wildlife remains difficult to quantify. The lack of feed for the cattle after the fire meant that much of Nyanda’s cattle would need to be sold, and large amounts of feed brought in, incurring a huge cost on the pastoral business. Although that was quickly relinquished by the rain that came soon after the fires, and lasted 2 weeks, resulting in over 180mm soaking in the ground to kickstart the regrowth.

Bushfire recovery
Bushfire affecting our sandstone mountains.

Pictures: Left - Cabbage Tree Flat and Mountains Burning. Right - Only 9 days later!

Our sincere appreciation goes out to the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) and the Rural Fire Service, whose support played a pivotal role in our firefighting efforts. Collaborating with 8 park crews, 5 Rural Fire crews, and numerous neighbours, we also received valuable assistance from 2 water bombing planes and a spotter helicopter.

Our firefighting efforts began when the bushfire descended into Nyanda from Carnarvon National Park, specifically a 1100m tall escarpment that forms the boundary of the property. Our first attempt to conduct a backburn was made difficult by one of the most inconvenient times for a small shower of rain that I had ever seen. This shower was enough to stop the grass from burning but not enough to even wet the soil. The next morning the grass had dried up and we tried again. This time everything burnt very well, although the windy, hot days made it difficult to keep it contained.

Overnight, the fire altered its course. It circumvented the creek and crossed it during the night, undoing much of the previous day's work.

An inferno created by strong gusty winds during part of the Carnarvon Gorge complex bushfire event.
Backburning on Nyanda. Bushfire

Undeterred, we regrouped, working to improve firebreaks, and initiating strategic backburns with neighbourly assistance. Late nights patrolling fires and fortifying firebreaks along a crucial 12-kilometer stretch became routine, with many members of the community showing up to lend a hand.

Firefighting - Hosing down a burning tree

Day 5 became a turning point. We coordinated an emergency backburn over an 8-kilometer stretch, contending with strong southerly gusts. The fire jumped our break, prompting us to work on the next line of defence. Careful planning and collaboration saw the successful containment of the fire.

In the weeks following the fires, Nyanda has witnessed a remarkable recovery. A significant transformation has occurred across the landscape, with green shoots emerging and signs of renewal, with some paddocks absolutely covered in lilies and other native flowers! However, on the top of ridges where the two fire fronts met in multiple places, recovery will be slow. Nature, in its own way, dictates the pace of regeneration.

Bushfire recovery progress - Lots of green grass coming back
Bushfire Recovery - 2 Weeks after fire

Recognising the natural course of recovery, we understand that some areas will take time to heal. Moving ahead, the lessons from this experience stress the ongoing need for the continuing improvement of land management practices. Nyanda's story is just one of many in our local area during the fires. As we progress, we must all stay committed to understanding nature and living sustainably as part of it.


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