Fire is an integral part of the ecology of Wellington Park – but bushfires are a threat to life and property and to many of the values of the Park. Park visitors and neighbours can reduce the risk of fire through simple precautions.
French expeditions in the late eighteenth century reported extensive Aboriginal firing of the forests on the foothills of the Wellington Range. Since European settlement severe fires are known to have occurred on parts of the Wellington Range in 1806, 1851, 1897, 1914, 1934, 1945, and 1967. Approximately 90% of the Park was burnt in the ‘Black Tuesday’ bushfires on 7th February 1967. These bushfires burnt 270 000ha across southern Tasmania including the fringe of Hobart. In five hours 1300 houses and 128 major buildings were burnt. Sixty two people lost their lives. Since 1967 there have been major bushfires in the Park in 1983, 2001 and 2013.
Bushfires within the Park can threaten surrounding property and vice versa. Within the Park bushfires can damage and destroy infrastructure and cultural heritage, reduce scenic values and affect the quality and amount of water that can be extracted from the drinking water catchments in the Park. Although many of the plant communities in the Park benefit from occasional fire, some can be severely degraded by fire. Much of the vegetation in the higher parts of the Park is still recovering from the 1967 bushfires.
Park neighbours should reduce the risk of fire through simple preparation and precautions. Every neighbouring household should have a Bushfire Survival Plan and this must be implemented early. Visitors to the Park are reminded to observe fire restrictions during total fire bans as no fire places can be used during these periods. To minimise the risk to Park visitors and reduce the risk of bushfires, the Park will be closed on days with a Severe, Extreme or Catastrophic fire danger rating.
The Wellington Park Fire Management Strategy aims to minimise the threats posed by fires through consistent policies, appropriate procedures, and community involvement. The Strategy uses planned burning as a tool to reduce fuel loads and to maintain plant communities and species of conservation value that require occasional fire to ensure their long-term viability. Planned burning is also used to assist in removing weeds and regenerating degraded bushland.
For more information on fire and fire management research opportunities in Wellington Park contact the Trust’s Manager.