Did Climate Change Cause World Heritage Listed Fraser Island to Burn?

Fraser Island
Fraser Island. Public Domain, link. Two vehicle ferry services operate from Rainbow Beach and a second location just south of Hervey Bay

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

In mid October, an illegal campfire on World Heritage Site Fraser Island caused a blaze which is still smouldering. Fraser Island is only 8 miles across – so questions are being asked, about why a tiny island connected to the mainland by two vehicle barge services, with a major airport capable of handling 747s nearby in Hervey Bay, within a few hours drive of the state capital Brisbane, was allowed to burn.

Fighting for Fraser Island: how tourism and climate change put an ancient environment at risk

Campaigners who helped end logging and mining in the spectacular paradise of lakes, rainforests and beaches now fear global heating

Before he died in February 2019, John Sinclair had been fighting for Fraser Island off the Queensland coast for the best part of 50 years.

In the early 1970s the world’s biggest sand island – an ethereal paradise of lakes, towering rainforests and ancient dunes – was under pressure from sand mining and more than a century of logging.

By 1976, Sinclair and his purpose-built Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (Fido) had fought off the sand miners. It took another 15 years for the logging to stop.

Two months ago, an illegal campfire on the island got out of control. With drier than usual conditions and high temperatures, the blaze has so far scorched 85,000 hectares – more than half the island.

What would John Sinclair have made of the devastation?

“He’d probably have said: I told you this would happen,” his son Keith tells the Guardian. “He’d say: What are we going to do to make sure it won’t happen again?”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/11/fighting-for-fraser-island-how-tourism-and-climate-change-put-an-ancient-environment-at-risk

However some people are not quite so ready to blame the failure to control the blaze on our climate sins.

Queensland Premier defends Fraser Island bushfire management as blaze continues to threaten Happy Valley

By Rachel Riga and staff

An emergency bushfire warning was issued for the fire on Sunday with residents in the island town of Happy Valley advised to “leave immediately”.

Water bombing did not commence until November 14 — about one month after the fire started.

LNP spokesman for fire and emergency services Dale Last said the State Government needed to answer serious questions over the fire’s management.

“These fires have caused shocking damage, but what’s more shocking is the silence from Fire Minister Mark Ryan,” he said.

“He needs to front up. He needs to explain what the Government knew about fire warnings and why they were ignored.

“Queenslanders deserve to know what the Government could have done to prevent the spread of this fire.

“This is a World Heritage-listed site that has been treated appallingly from a weak minister who is failing to take any responsibility for this unfolding disaster.”

Steve Knight, the owner of a retreat in beachside town of Happy Valley, told ABC Radio Brisbane some residents were frustrated that more resources were not put towards fighting the fire earlier.

“I don’t think anyone thought this one would get to where it is now and in fact I’m really annoyed that they didn’t pile the resources they’re applying to it now to it much earlier,” he said.

“They could have stopped this in its tracks a long time ago in my view but I’m not a fireman and it’s not my department.”

Read more: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-12-07/qld-fraser-island-bushfire-management/12957056

Fraser Island is a narrow strip of land surrounded by sea.

A single bulldozer could have cut a large fire break across the entire island in a few days. A marine fire fighting barge could have flooded the fire with millions of litres per day of sea water, with a maximum hose length of 4 miles (half the 8 mile width of the island), well within the capabilities of modern mine pumping or fire fighting equipment.

But all of these decisions would have required facing down green radicals opposed to any firefighting measure which might damage or contaminate the world heritage listed forest.

So instead decision makers sat on their hands until the fire was totally out of control, and let the island burn to a crisp.

Now they are trying to blame climate change for the catastrophic consequences of their failure to respond in a timely and appropriate manner.

Note I am not disparaging the efforts of the firefighters on the ground. Within their apparently appalling rules of engagement they worked their butts of to save lives and homes, I heard at least one was hospitalised for heat exhaustion.

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December 12, 2020 6:12 pm

The fire burned because (1) little to no hazard reduction has been done for years under its socialist government; (2) fire breaks and access tracks had not been properly maintained under its socialist government; and, the lease on the fire bombing aircraft that would have doused the fire in 10 minutes was allowed to lapse days before the fire and the fire season, by the socialist government.
This same government won’t properly fund the fire fighters but will employ another 4,500 public servants to sit on the backsides in George Street (Brisbane) … votes from a few fire fighters pales into insignificance compared to public servants.

Reply to  Streetcred
December 12, 2020 9:29 pm

Here is a quote by Churchill on socialism.
“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

Phillip Bratby
Reply to  Leonard
December 12, 2020 10:44 pm

I must remember that quote

oebele bruinsma
Reply to  Streetcred
December 14, 2020 8:21 am

Everything the Left (either red or green) touches, apparently withers and rots.

December 12, 2020 6:28 pm

This really saddens me, as one who roamed the length & breadth of Fraser Is many many times throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

But just as with all the other great sand islands in that part of the world – Moreton Is, Bribie Is, North Stradbroke Is, South Stradbroke Is – that I was fortunate to enough to wander around over the years, scrub and bush fires were very common occurrences (caused by lightning) on them all. Evidence of past widespread fires is everywhere. There were no large scale fire containment resources on any of these islands, only local village volunteer responders. Every fire was left to do its thing unless / until it threatened some sort of infrastructure.

As nature has taken its course for the past 10,000 years with these creations of sea level rise after the last ice age. And remember they’re all eucalyptus and paperbark trees – many rely on fire to regenerate.

Reply to  Mr.
December 12, 2020 6:58 pm

I also meant to say that climate change is definitely a factor in the way these sand islands have evolved, but not anything that has happened in the past 100 years or so.

Ask me in another 1,000 years if manmade has left any discernible traits.

Reply to  Mr.
December 13, 2020 3:34 am

looks like a cyclones forming off to the east today, if? it doesnt lose oomph hitting whatever islands its gotta cross first then they can whine about savage climate storms as well…
obviously the logging was better than letting it go to hell with no removal of growth for decades

Bill Treuren
Reply to  Mr.
December 13, 2020 9:44 am

Is it fair to say that fire started by lightening tend to be in the wet season thus less likely to burn the entire island.

December 12, 2020 6:30 pm

Logging was stopped in 1991.

That’s your problem, right there.

Reply to  MarkW
December 12, 2020 9:00 pm

Yes, to protect the tall forests there, forestry management regularly burnt the surrounding scrubland within a network of fire trails. Now that it is all national park with most of the trails grown over, the burn regime consists of being ”ecologically based rather than being based on “hazard reduction”. So now, predictably, its burnt toast.

December 12, 2020 7:41 pm

It’s always man destroying nature for the ecoloonies.

Tom Foley
December 12, 2020 7:46 pm

It’s not just the Qld Labor government that has dragged their heels on this. The conservative federal government has consistentlt refused to built up Australia’s fire-fighting air capacity, in spite of warnings from fire agencies that we don’t have enough and can’t rely on other countries, especially when the fire seasons are lengthening and the north and south hemisphere seasons are overlapping. This refusal in the face of known imminent annual danger and need is strange when we are paying billions for military aircraft and submarines which won’t be delivered for another 10-15 years or more, and so will be nearly obsolete when they get here.

Philip Alban Armbruster
Reply to  Tom Foley
December 12, 2020 8:25 pm

Fire fighting and the rural Fire Brigades are a State function and responsibility.

One of the problems is that in NSW there are at least 3 authorities dealing with Bushfires the Rural Fire Service, the National Parks fire service, and the Forestry Fire service as well as the metropolitan Fire Brigades where the fires intrude into town areas..
The cataclysmic fires which ravaged Canberra about 10 or so years ago was because the NSW National Parks fire service preferred to “watch and wait” until the fire became a roaring monster which crossed the border into The Australian capital territory (Canberra)

NSW as 40% of Australia’s GNP has the resources to buy several planes and in fact loaned one to Qld last week.
According to Google there are 45large fire fighting planes available to fight fires in the Australian states,

The NSW Government also has a policy of using private charters for helicopters and small fixed wing( cropdusters) before using say army resources.

spangled drongo
December 12, 2020 7:56 pm

There is so much hypocrisy surrounding the so-called “defence” of Fraser Island. For starters FIDO mostly wanted to protect the Dingo, that well known Australian feral canid which is the Pariah Dog of Asia and their protection of it has removed the ability to dispose of other feral killers.

As a result of this FIDO is responsible for the killing of most of the island’s ground-dwelling natives. For them to make out that they think that people who allowed a “cool” burn, which the island was sorely in need of, to proceed for too long and become a danger, is just further hypocrisy and no worse than they have been doing for decades.

Gary Pearse
December 12, 2020 7:57 pm

Even foam-mouthed activists of a number
of years ago would have thought it ridiculous to blame global warming for a fire lit by some bozo. Today, having lost the scientific argument they even agree that Maurice Strong, a Canadian high school communist drop out billionaire who invented all this meme, had global governance and destruction of the West’s economy and its civilization in mind and not really global warming and CO2 reduction. They just cynically repeat what everyone in the NWO campaign knows to be a lie.

Now it looks like the same bunch who honed skills in mass deception in climate and medical science, have pulled off what Joe Biden himself admits was the work of the best election fruad organization ever launched. He said they pulled off the same job for Obama and himself in the previous administration. (Interview October 24th, ten days before the election!). Link- scroll down to the second visual for the video.


Steve Case
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 12, 2020 9:16 pm

Gary Pearse December 12, 2020 at 7:57 pm

Now it looks like the same bunch who honed skills in mass deception in climate and medical science, have pulled off what Joe Biden himself admits was the work of the best election fraud organization ever launched. He said they pulled off the same job for Obama and himself in the previous administration. (Interview October 24th, ten days before the election!). Link- scroll down to the second visual for the video.


I’m rather sure he meant fraud prevention. It just didn’t come out of his mouth that way when he said it. Of course considering the obvious fact that the Democrats had four years to plan the election steal, claiming fraud prevention is bullshit and he knew it. He didn’t bother to campaign because he knew the fix was in, he didn’t have to. Now that the Democrats know that they can get away with it, most elections from here on out will be fixed. Down the road we can probably look forward to a super majority in the House and Senate. It’s not a pretty picture.

David A
Reply to  Steve Case
December 15, 2020 5:34 am

People with dementia often say things without a filter. Joe also told an audience, “I don’t need your vote…”
He also said he would step aside for Harris in a dispute.

The steal was clearly planned. Joe was told not to concede no matter how the election results looked late on election day. And the after closing rush of hundreds of thousands of votes 8n the swing states did in fact materialize, just as predicted.

Adam Gallon
Reply to  Gary Pearse
December 13, 2020 1:12 pm

Another “Trumptard”
Sees a selectively edited video, posted by Trump’s press secretary & believes it.
Biden was being asked a question posed by Dan Pfeiffer, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. Pfeiffer asked what Biden would tell people who hadn’t already voted or who didn’t have a plan to vote. Biden gave a three-part answer and it was the second part that was selectively edited and posted on the Facebook page. Biden was saying that they had worked hard to prepare to prevent voter fraud.

Biden, Oct. 24: But one of the things that I think is most important is those who haven’t voted yet, first of all go to IWILLVOTE.com to make a plan exactly how you’re going to vote, where you’re going to vote, when you’re going to vote. Because it can get complicated, because the Republicans are doing everything they can to make it harder for people to vote — particularly people of color — to vote. So go to IWILLVOTE.com.

Secondly, we’re in a situation where we have put together, and you guys did it for our administration — President Obama’s administration before this — we have put together I think the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics. What the president is trying to do is discourage people from voting by implying that their vote won’t be counted, it can’t be counted, we’re going to challenge it and all these things. If enough people vote, it’s going to overwhelm the system.

You see what’s happening now, you guys know it as well as I do, you see the long, long lines and early voting. You see the millions of people who have already cast a ballot. And so, don’t be intimidated. If in fact you have any, any problem go to — and I don’t have the number but it’s 833-DEM-VOTE… Call that number. We have over a thousand lawyers, over a thousand of them, they’ll answer the phone, if you think there’s any challenge to your voting. Go to 833-DEM-VOTE, dial those letters on your phone. That will get you the assistance that we have already put in place.

Trump lost, he lost by a wide margin.

John Dilks
Reply to  Adam Gallon
December 13, 2020 7:09 pm

Adam, if you believe what you just wrote, I feel sorry for you. Biden cheated and there is no doubt of that. Y’all keep it up and there will be a war.

Mark A Luhman
Reply to  John Dilks
December 13, 2020 9:00 pm

It going to be a interesting next four years. Biden is going to be removed by his own cheating party and replace with heels up Kamala, some on who could not get 1% of the primary election vote. The useful idiot of the Dimms are in for a big surprise if they are bright enough to know them been had. My guess Adam will not figure it out, my guess he bought the Russia hoax also.

Rafe Champion
December 12, 2020 8:03 pm

Precisely who are the greens who stand in the way? Are they on the local council like the ones in Victoria who refused to allow preventive strategies to control fires, so over 100 people died in major fires a few years ago. Did the Greens have the balance of power in the Queensland Parliament? Are the major parties so intimidate by green NGOs that the won’t enact appropriate rules and regulations?

December 12, 2020 8:41 pm

Question is..

Did they let it burn ON PURPOSE so they could blame it on “Climate Change” !

Steve Case
Reply to  fred250
December 12, 2020 9:31 pm

fred250 December 12, 2020 at 8:41 pm
Question is..

Did they let it burn ON PURPOSE so they could blame it on “Climate Change” !

I don’t put anything past left wingers, after all, can you say Jeffery Epstein?

Les Francis
December 13, 2020 12:18 am

So Much BS talked about with heritage and ancient forests in Australia.

Before the British came to Australia there were massive ancient rain forests of Red Cedar all along the eastern coast from southern NSW to the far north of Queensland.
Early settlers harvested all of the commercially available forests. They were gone by the turn of the 20th century.
Red Cedar was known as “Red Gold” prized for masking furniture, floor boards, boat building and construction.

Rain forests particularly sub and tropical rain forests generate their own weather system. Take those forests away and you have “Climate Change”
Frazer Island also was harvested. Whats left is the unprofitable stuff and regrowth. Ancient might be a couple of hundred years old. Or the odd individual tree that wasn’t worth cutting down at the time the 19th century loggers were in operation.

There are some red cedar plantations which were planted in the 1950’s. Some of those trees are already more than a metre in diameter. Unfortunately Red Cedar is not an easy tree to grow.

We have a house in Tewantin – not far south of Frazer Island. Tewantin was originally a logging port. When the forests were stripped of commercial amounts of Red Cedar fortunately for the locals, a little gold was found.

We have a regrowth forest behind our house. There’s no Red Cedar in there. Just carp Eucalyptus which are not indigenous to the area.
F.W.I.W. Last year at this time we were evacuated because of bush fires.

Another thing. All that BS regarding Tasmania’s pristine environment. There are no pristine ancient forests in Tasmania. The island was completely stripped of commercial grade timber. You can go into the “pristine Forests” and see the stumps that the loggers left behind.

There are some individual ancient trees that were left behind by the loggers. Individual trees.

Reply to  Les Francis
December 13, 2020 12:43 pm

”Another thing. All that BS regarding Tasmania’s pristine environment. There are no pristine ancient forests in Tasmania. The island was completely stripped of commercial grade timber”
Sorry Les, but I have to call BS on that one. Nearly all the state forest that was transferred to world heritage area in the last ten years is in fact virgin forest, never been touched. As well as that there are significant stands that have always been in either national parks or timber reserves. More than 50% of Tasmania is now either WHA, national parks or reserves. All locked up waiting for the next wild fire.
I know this because working within commercial forestry in Tasmania has been part of my life for the last 45 years.
I am not all that familiar with the redwood forests on the mainland, but I suspect there would still be significant stands in national parks and innaccessible areas.

Doug Huffman
December 13, 2020 4:08 am

Control wildfire Low Slow Small Cool prescribed preemptively to prevent High (crowning) Huge Fast and Hot.

When I was last in Yosemite there were hundreds of slash piles waiting to be burned in place as it is too expensive of public welfare funds to truck the fuel to Glacier Point and reinstitute the Firefall.


December 13, 2020 8:47 am

Just for a bit of perspective.

That SMALL island is one eighth the size of Northern Ireland, which supports a population of 1.9 million residents

Ian MacCulloch
December 13, 2020 12:16 pm

Indolence on behalf of the Queensland Government – nothing more nothing less

December 13, 2020 2:59 pm

Dealing with fire is a complex problem with many variables.

There would have been a point in time to consider sacrificing <2% to save the loss of another 80%. The earlier you attack a fire, the better. As others have earlier pointed out, the dry fuel & undergrowth left to accumulate has a far greater impact on fire intensity than 1 or 2C higher temperatures. The models used by the IPCC are poor at predicting humidity & rainfall so no conclusions can be drawn as causes. Needing several hundred degrees celsius to ignite the wood, do you really think 2C would make much of a difference? Moisture levels will slow the spread but eventually it will burn with only a minor change to the MJ per area or volume left to heat the fuel&air (heat to evaporate water moves that away & cools the fire). Removing the fuel or dumping kL of water per sq.m makes a much bigger impact.

You look at the terrain & random pick areas a fire can start. How far will it go if: nothing is done; or pre-emptive actions; or emergency actions? A fire needs ignition, fuel & oxygen. Stopping a bush fire requires sufficient water, delivery of that water from a safe distance (eg. pump water from a distance of 3x the height of the flames) & access to the location of the fire with the required equipment/aircraft. Mulch & mix with soil inplace (animals, insects & bacteria etc. to help decompose & reduce fire risk), smaller hazard reduction burns or physical removal. In an emergency you may need to bulldoze a fire break & other drastic measures to protect the majority. You can fight grass fires with raking the grass into the soil (or with heavy machinery) or throwing sand on it.

Low temperature burns in patches protects living things below the soil & in the canopy, with most of surface insects&animals can move away or quickly return. Our cloud formations rely on particles such as smoke & cosmic rays for increasing rain. How many times have we seen predictions of wastelands from fires, floods, near volcanoes, or coral reefs only to see nature return far better than "expert" predictions.

December 14, 2020 1:38 am

Fire is natural, many plants, Pyrophytes, are adapted to needing fire to reproduce.

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