Australian Bushfires: Prehistoric Wollemi Pines saved from the bushfires

Firefighters saved New South Wales famous Wollemi pines from destruction in the most recent fires. Helicopters would lower specialist firefighters into the gorge where the trees grow. Water bombing aircrafts would drop fire retardant. Consequently, this made a stop in the potential fires spreading. Most of the Wollemi National Park has been burnt by the Gospers Mountain Fire. However, they managed to save these ancient trees. These trees are critically endangered on the IUCN’s red list. As a result, the NSW government hides their location so they don’t become contaminated with diseases no local to their environment. In December 2019, ABC made the claim they were concerned about the only wild Wollemi pines. Thankfully, Australian firefighters were able to protect these ancient trees.

How they stopped the fires

The NSW Government’s priority was to protect these trees. However, their task wasn’t easy. They had to stop one of the largest ever bushfires in Australia from approaching these trees. The sheer significance of their discovery, small population and rarity meant it was a priority to protect. The way they protected these trees are as follows:

  • They deployed firefighters via helicopters to a secret location where the Wollemi pines grow.
  • To stop they fire spreading they deployed an irrigation system.
  • Water bombers dropped fire retardant. This painted the forests around the Wollemi pines red.

The fires came incredibly close to the pines. Luckily, the Wollemi pines survived.

Why are these trees important?

The Wollemi Pine was only recently discovered in 1994 by David Noble, Michael Casteleyn and Tony Zimmerman. Bank had a fair bit of botanical knowledge. As a result, he was able to identify the unique tree due to its bark colouration. He took specimens to work for identification. Wyn Jones confirmed his discovery. The oldest fossils of the Wollemi tree have been dated to 200 million years ago. This fossil was identical to the current Wollemi pines found today.

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