Cool Burning

cool burn
What is ‘cool burning?’ Surely fire is fire and it’s hot? At Euroa Arboretum, we are very interested in cool burning – burning at the end of autumn to burn off newly germinated annual weedy grasses. This assists us enormously with our weed control, reduces our chemical use and is easy to manage as true its name, it is cool. Immediately after the flames have passed over the area, the ground is cool to touch. We are finding, after 2 – 3 years of repeated burns, we have better annual grass control than after multiple years of chemical control.

Phil Hawkey, Native Vegetation Officer, CFA and Shane Monk, Taungurung Traditional Owner, joined me recently at Euroa Arboretum to conduct a cool burn. With a crowd in attendance, Phil gave some good tips for those wanting to try a cool burn. In summary these are:

  1. Get your timing right. Check your forecast and particularly your winds.
  2. On the day, check for leaf moisture. Trial burning a leaf – if a dead leaf burns gently while holding it horizontally, the moisture levels are about right.
  3. Check for wind speed and direction. Some flagging tape on a stick is a great homemade device for this check.
  4. Try a small area first – a 44 gallon drum with both ends cut out is a safe way to check how intensely the site will burn. Or my favourite – Phil’s pirouette with the watering can. Spinning in a circle to create a wet boundary, you can then light the inside circle immediately and the grass will burn to the wet edge.
  5. Keep it within the limits of your capacity or workforce, and have a metal rake, watering can and ideally a slip on at the site as safety.
  6. Try a small area first. Burning can have unwanted consequences on some weed species by providing bare ground for even better weed establishment.

It was brilliant to have Shane Monk, his daughter Ebony and grandson Jack attend and assist with lighting up. As Traditional Owners, this was a huge part of Shane’s family heritage and the way his ancestors managed out local landscape. We are all re-learning how to manage our modified grasslands with traditional techniques.

Cath Olive
Euroa Arboretum Project Manager

We would like to thank the Euroa fire brigade for their assistance mopping up on the day of the workshop and for responding to a small re-ignition the following day.