Fire Towers Keep Watch As Fire Danger Increases

February 8, 2000 Tumut & Adelong Times

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has activated its network of fire towers in Kosciuszko National Park as the fire danger has moved into the 'very high' category for the first time this summer.

NPWS fire senior ranger, Megan Bowden, said contractors are now operating four fire towers at Ingebyra, Youngal, Black Jack and Talbingo.

"Between these four towers plus those of neighbouring Department of Natural Resources and Environment in Victoria and State Forest in NSW, the fire towers provide a very good detection network for bushfires over a large area of remote mountainous country," said Ms Bowden.

"The fire tower observers are very experienced and are able to differentiate between smoke from bushfires and cloud and dust.

"The fire towers provide for quick detection of fires which is important in remote areas where it may be difficult to get the fire fighting resources to a fire. "It is much easier to jump on fires with dry fire fighting techniques while they are still small."

Ms Bowden said the job of fire tower observer requires a certain type of individual. Some towers are quite remote, so some of the observers live in the towers seven days a week, returning to town for suppliers only once a month during the peak fire danger periods of summer."

When smoke is spotted, each tower takes a bearing on the sighting and reports this information back to the fire control centre in either Jindabyne or Tumut. The bearings are plotted on a map and lines drawn on each bearing. The intersection of the lines provides an accurate location of the fire.

Crews are then deployed to the fire by winching from a helicopter if conditions permit, or they will drive and then walk in where a fire is close to a trail.

"Fire towers observers also provide important weather information which allows us to scale up our readiness if they can see thunderstorms appearing as well as alerting fire fighting crews to wind changes," Ms Bowden said. "This information is also useful to calculate potential rates to spread of the fire."

Generally the towers will be fully operational until march or April, depending on the season and the fire danger.