Australia bushfire: Dangerously heroic, top secret firefighting mission saved million year old ‘dinosaur trees’

Swapna Raghu Sanand
dinosaur trees, australia bushfire, wollemi pines, NSW, wollemi pine trees

A dangerously heroic, top secret firefighting effort by Australia’s firefighters saved not only the only known natural grove of the world-renowned Wollemi pines from destruction but also the entire area and its surrounding ecosystem during the unprecedented Australian bushfire disaster in New South Wales. According to reports, helicopters were also called in to drop water around the fire-edge areas and minimize impact on the Wollemi pines.

Termed to be a remarkable tree species found only in Australia, these trees are known to date back to 100,000 years! Nicknamed as ‘Dinosaur Trees’, the Wollemi pines can stand tall, thanks to the heroic efforts and highly coordinated on-the-ground and in-air fire fighters.

The firefighters efforts have been acknowledged by the Australian state government on Wednesday, along with acknowledging the combined efforts by both NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service, which eventually ensured that the Wollemi pines survived the devastating bushfires that have ravaged the region in an unprecedented manner.

The Australian bushfire, as most of you already know, wreaked devastation and damage in the last two months, destroying more than 512,000 hectares land, north-west of Sydney.

To save the Wollemi pines, Australia’s firefighters used large air tankers that would drop a blanket of fire retardant on the area. Following this, specialists firefighters were air dropped from helicopters on to the site. They had to lay an effective irrigation system, according to the statement made by the NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean. He also pointed out that while some trees got damaged, the species would survive.

A report in The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Australian National University associate professor Cris Brack as saying that based on fossil evidence, it is believed that these Wollemi pine trees date back to between 100 and 200 million years ago. Adding his insights, he stated that these trees are so precious because they cannot be cloned and are likely to be around 100,000 years old.

According to local reports cited by SMH, some trees were completely destroyed while the surviving trees may take up to a year to completely recover from the damage. The silver lining is that most of these trees are now termed to be in ‘defence’ mode to revive ‘new growth’.

Everytime you read about the devastation caused by Australia’s unprecedented bushfire, it is simply too heart-wrenching! Images of koalas with charred paws and animals with burnt fur manifest in the mind. One is left to wonder whether there is scope for hope.

Nature, however, has its own way of revival and survival. We are learning valuable lessons from Australian bushfires. In its aftermath, there is much resilience to imbibe within the human spirit.