Fire training on-country with the Kiwirrkurra rangers

Raymond, Kiwirrkurra ranger

I have been working ranger for five years doing a lot of stuff….it is good working as rangers

Raymond Olodoodi, Kiwirrkurra ranger

10 Deserts Project team members Gareth and Hannah travelled on-country to support the Kiwirrkurra rangers burning in remote and inaccessible areas of the Kiwirrkurra Indigenous Protected Area (IPA).

The team provided valuable one-on-one fire management training using both aerial incidenary machine and on-ground burning techniques. The trip also allowed numerous traditional owners (TOs) to view their country (and size of previous wildfires) from the air and visit sites they had never previously seen.

Took all the young people out, showing them the country…they are learning more about the Gibson Desert, and tracking and pussy cat hunting, learning about tracking cats, yeah that was good for young people.  When we find the virus here, we want to work, to work every day, work work every day it was really good – keep us busy.

Raymond Olodoodi, Kiwirrkurra ranger

As part of this flight, the men found and visited a large cave with a shaft as a chimney that people used to have fires in and camp in. When they got back from the flight they were very keen to share photos of the cave with everyone else. This flight was particularly meaningful for Johnnie, as it was not only his first ever time in a helicopter, but he was flying over the area he grew up in and is a traditional owner of after a recent reconnection with it. Although he grew up at Nyinmi, his first return trip to the outstation was not until 2019 with the ranger team after a 20 year absence.

Johnnie returning to country after a long absence

The ground burning training provided instruction in the safe and effective use of drip torches and rakehoes to 10 rangers including seven female rangers who had never had any experience in using these tools. One of the training exercises was conducted at several sites within the main great desert skink population on the Kiwirrkurra IPA (east of Kiwirrkurra) contributing to the protection of this species.

The team gave out protective fire clothing which has been donated by the Rottnest Island Authority, these were really well received and everyone was keen to claim a yellow jacket, with a lot of laughter and photos involved.

While this burning run was happening, the rest of the freshly kitted-up rangers went to a patch of older roadside spinifex to do some ground burning.

Gareth talked everyone through safety and technique using drip torches, long-burning matches and rake hoes. Everyone had a go with the drip torch. Nolia also demonstrated the traditional technique of lighting a bunch of spinifex and walking a line with it lighting up successive clumps. Collectively this work resulted in a patchy small burn of 1-2 ha.

You can watch the Kiwikurra rangers in action in this Reflections of Kiwirrkurra Rangers, July 2020 video.

Thank you to the Kiwikurra rangers for having us on country.

Words and images by Hannah Cliff, Gareth Catt and Dr Rachel Paltridge

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