Mount Isa Airport estate is approximately 400 hectares and is bordered by both unallocated state land and property owned by Glencore Mount Isa Mines Limited. FFEC have been engaged in the 2011-2014 fire seasons by Mount Isa Mines to implement the annual fire program on ML8058. Thus implementing the fire program this season on the airport estate and the ML8058 during March-April 2014 provided an excellent opportunity to achieve fire management at on broader landscape-scale defined by natural boundaries rather than restricted purely to tenure.
The proposed burn area comprised air-side areas within the Mount Isa airport immediately adjacent to the flight strip and also areas north of the airport terminal and west of the Barkly Highway. This created a challenging environment with smoke interference likely under most wind conditions and an increased risk of bird strike for aircraft.
The burn strategy involved on-ground ignition techniques to factor in the expected increased volume of smoke generated from a 3 year since-burnt fuels supporting a med-high moisture content requiring a 90% burnt pattern, and also a 24 hour window of opportunity to burn outside of flight schedules.
- Remove high fuel loads throughout the airport estate without compromising airport safety obligations and hindering operations.
- Reduce grasses to reduce the presence of macropods foraging in the airport estate causing risk of aircraft collision.
- Prevent unplanned fires from entering and exiting airport estates.
The desired outcome was achieved by FFEC, with threats to infrastructure coming from the possibility of wildfire in the long unburnt vegetation mitigated. Fuel loads were greatly decreased – in most areas >80% of the available fuel load has been removed.
The timing of burns and the selection of small burn sections to be implemented in stages ensured that any smoke generated would potentially impact on only a small section of the flight strip at any given time. This ensured any unscheduled or general aviation flights were minimally impacted.