Camperdown Chronicle
Smoke planned to rise from Lake Bullen Merri

SMOKE is set to rise from the Lake Bullen Merri crater over the coming days, with a planned burn of North Beach under way.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Otway district manager David Roberts said the burn would begin today (Friday) or early next week, depending on weather conditions.

It will be the first ever planned burn for the reserve and follows on from the devastating 2018 St Patrick’s Day fires which destroyed the northern rim of the volcanic crater.

Initially scheduled for April last year, the burn was delayed until after the busy Easter holiday season and then delayed further due to earlier than usual heavy rainfall.

A rescheduled burn date set for the following spring was also delayed, due to drier conditions than expected.

Mr Roberts said undergrowth at the North Beach area flourished after the 2018 fires for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, there was a sudden flush of nutrients in the soil,” he said.

“The fire burnt through the tree canopy as well, which let a lot more sun through which spurred on growth.

“Another factor is the fact that North Beach is at the bottom of the water line – water from the higher slopes naturally runs down there.”

The post fire conditions meant native species bounced back readily, as well as introduced weeds.

The burn-off is planned to take place between the dirt road that circumnavigates the lake around North Beach and the lake’s edge.

Mr Roberts said the result was a mix of natives and weeds, with tall grasses dominating.

“Our aim is to get the area lit, clear the grassy area up and patrol it,” he said.

“The burn will be less severe in heat intensity than the St Patrick’s Day fire and burn the lower fuels, such as grasses, leaf litter and small branches about the size of a human finger.

“We will start the fire at one end and work our way across the slope, taking care not to impact on the revegetation work that has previously taken place there.”

The low, slow moving burn is expected to give native animals an opportunity to move away from the fire, either up the North Beach hill or onto private property.

DELWP staff carried out preparatory works at the reserve last week.

“Our team was clearing trees around the road edge so there would be no risk of trees falling over vehicles, or of the fire jumping across the road,” Mr Roberts said.

“We will be working with the local CFA during the burn as well.”