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A CHALICE OF CHARM. Helena Reservoir Area:. Torches` in the.Night. Cupped artong the Darling. Ranges. H elena Reservoir offer -a' chalice of charm known fully' to few. The hills wear a "fair and llor.d air" to-day. Love ]iness lies-there. Even in the depth 'of winter. spring treads lightly among the woods.. .The marks of her feet' are seen .in many -an early wild flower. Her hands 'have.touched the red-brown leaves of young trees. Mundaring Weir has its .own beauty. Soon thousands of eity people will gather there while .the floods of --winter. fall and" thunder. Beyond "the weir. however, is the - reservoir catchment area-a coun try. bf a delicate beauty scarcely rivalled in the State. To most it is an unknowh realm of woodland wonder, shielded from lay gaze by the Goldfields Water Supply and Forests Departnients. Negotia tions are now proceeding to. open the area to the public on certain diys and under rigid restrictions. . The reserved jarrah forest of'theMInn daring district covers 140.000 acres: Roughly, its boundaries are GlenFor rest. Wooroloo. the junction of the Hel ena and Darkin Rivers. 31t. Dale, Death Adder Creek. Kangaroo Gully (south- of Karragullen). a point west of Victoria Reservoir. Bickley. and South Kala- munda. The Forests Department. since it has organised a very complete scheme of fire control and has commenced ex ,tensive pine 'plantations on resumed farm lands, is intimately concerned in any public intrusion. -To show what the foresters are doing. the -Aiting Con servator of Forests (3r. S. L. Kessell) conducted a small party, including ,Mr I- S- Sampson, M.L.A.. in whose electo rate the district lies, over the road which' girdles the Helena reservoir,'last Thurs day morning. '. This road meets the main M3undaring M3undaring Weir' highway "--about two miles south-east of the former township Up Hill and Doew Gully, with. many a sharp curve and many a passage along the unguarded edge of a steep declivity, it winds for 18 miles until, the reservoir skirted, it ends be side No. 1 pumping station at the weir. Built at a cost of about £13.500 to aid the transport of firewood for the tio pumping station in the vicinity, the gravel road has a perman ent utility foreign to the usual mill truckway. It was never intended, of course, for use by touring motorists. It was patent on Thursday that -the opinion of the Minister for Forests (Mr. J. Scaddan) that the -existing road. if opened at all should be traversed by one way traffic only. is sound. A stop was made where men were planting young pines upon the dewy slopesof a low hill. In the valley was the nursery from which the -trees had been taken. New Zealand cultivates hard woods because of its dearth of such. In Western Australia the - need is for softwoods. In fact. it is so throughout Australia. which imported £4,500,000 worth last year. The pine plantations of the Forests Department are designed to supply the want. This year 1?.000 of the pinus insignia species and 10.1100 pinus pinaster will be planted. All with= in thirty miles of Perth! The car sped through the woods. _ile followell mile among scenes of sylvan beauty, ,broken by glimpses of the re servoir. serene and blue tinder a blue sky. The crossing of the upper reaches of the Helena and Darkin Rivers pro-' vided an unforgettable picture-pools of quietness..placid and polished in the sun. rimmed by tall trees that pondered ovet their reflected elegance. Willows and broad leaf oaks will grow there,- too, be fore long. On again, past Pickering Brook. bab bling among its stones. until Mr. Kessel' halted the car and took the party among young jarrah trees fire-scourged some years ago. Almost every tree told a story of perverted development. Here, where fire had licked the base, of the trunk, a limb had jutted from the main tree- too near the ground. Next year an other. fire passed by.. and another limb appeared. . So the erect. growth.. was. marred in. this and countless other trees. Near the weir end of the reservoir the car was left. U- the winding forest track the party rode to SThe Summit of Mt. GuOlia,. 1.400ft. above sea level. The ascent was made in order that a'full view' migan be secured of the area under fire con trol;.. 'The suggestion that. -motorists should be allowed to use the 18-mile forest -road menaces the -scheme of fire suppression instituted by . the Forests Department .last year. Even 'if that department -be won over to -some method by which the public may -see the catchment area.. the concurrence -of the- Chief Engineer for Water Supply (Mr. I'. . V. O'Brien) is necessary. How ever, the'.purpose of -Thtqrsday's. visit was to study the forest aspect of 'the question. " The fire - control scheme; is, remark ably cqmplete in . detail The whole area of' 140.000 acres has -been' divided into- three blocks. - subdivided into-com partments of 500 acres each. Prior. to -Iist year's fire season, two look-out plat forms 30ft. high were .erected --one on Mount Gunjin and -another on -Mount Dale (1.TO0ft. above sea level). The monnts are 14 miles apart. . Each com -mands a big expanski of country. The lookout towers are fitted with (1) a theodolite for reading horizontal anglds, (-! a table - carrying a compartment plan of the district: (:;) a heliograph fitted on-a permanent stand.,and (4) a tele phone instrument. Twenty-five miles of telephone line link the lookouts with district headquarters at mnndaring Weir'
uuu jour suuscauons on tne tops, or smaller -hills. At. the foot of each lookout tower on Mount Gunjin and Mount Dale is a but .for the accommoda tion of the man on watch; - The cost of erecting and equipping a complete look out station, including hut and tower, ,was £270. The telephone line worked out at £2S per mile. So much for: the equipment. How does the organisation work? In the fire season, which covers about" five months in the jarrah bush. a. watchman is kept constantly on each lookout every day of the meek. A "block" needs at least 'three men besides the forester -in charge. In rotation -the three men perform for seven-day periods" the. dn ties of lookout man, patrol, and spare man. The look-out man Aascads His Tewer" at' 8.30 a.m. and remains theretill' ;5 p.m. After afinal survey of- the coun try he reports to distriet headquarters 'at. 6.30 p.m. If no fires "are sighted. "'all dear"' signals are exchanged? ' with ", the -other:' look-out every' half-hour. . If. 'suspicious smoke is sighted, the bearing is taken and, transmitted. to 'the- other. lookout. who" also takes .a ?bearing The two bedarings are ruled oi a:plan thus? locat uing the fire with fair precision.' The lo cation is, checked and information con; veyed to district headquarters.' At the same time the lookout; stations.- must heliograph . the position of the., fire: to patrols or others, in the" bush., ; One patrol man to every 50.000 acres is necessary during the first fire season. When1 the season opens -a patrol man delivers "notices concerning the 'provi sions of the -Bush Fires Act to farmers and orchardists .in: and around the for ests. Ills presence.is a constiant warn ing and reminder. to bush workers. lie patrols according to a given, programme. (The times.at irhich he is due to call at certain fixed, heliograph stations are known. to the lookout man. Heliograph' stations- ire clearings marked. on the plan from which some specified lookout station is visible. In a paper read before the-recent' Interstate Forestry Conference in Bris bane MIr. Kessell. who is mainly respon sible for- the system outlined above. stated:--'A few months' experience has been sufficient to show that cheap and efficient fire control is possible in jarrah forests. Local propagainda will lay the foundation to successful fire control. Efficient legislation regarding locomo tives and the burning off of adjoining private 'property by. agriculturists and graziers will soon be recognised as ne cessary provisions for the protection of a public asset. Constantly manned fire lookouts will be the chief protective men sure. and every gang working in the bush, whether engaged on sylvicultural or. exploitation operations: and whether 'paid by the State or by private indi viduals, will be a potential fire fighting force. The Sympathy of Settlers in and around the forest who profit by immunity from bush fires is readily ob tained. nod these men are able to give valuable help at times of emergency. The problem of keepiung lookouts in touch with each other and with fire fighting forces will be solved by' three mneans-(1) lieliographs. (2) telephones (permanent and portable). and (3) small wireless sets. Ileliographs and wireless. telegraphy have the disadvantage of .re quiring .an observer to, be watching-.or 'listening in' constantly. This. disability will be. overcome' by empli(iing boys: chiefly= forest apprentic~ s, during? the
summer months as observers attending to instruiments in the, neighbourhood of large gangs of m'en.' Last summer: =under this control sy stem -12 men- reduced-fires in the "M-n dring catchliment district- to one per-cent of the total.area. In previous -years the average was 30 per cent. Had itnot been for" the.watchful lookouts on Mt.- Giujin and ?Mt- Dale last year. the .wisps of smoke which rose towards the, sky here and there would hliave developed, into big conflaigrations. The only fire which assumed any" size began at' night. Kan garoo huntersc apparently. were respons ible." With a nice precision. :each mhni posted himself, at 'a distance from the other. To prevent any uncomfortable nearness of whizzing bullets, positions were. indicated by lighted blackboys. Those flaming torches in the night touch ed the' forest with fire. Only strong light ing subdued the blaze. Seen from the lookout on Mt. Gunjin. a wealth of trees graced the hills: and valleys. Yet an idly flung cigarette butt could change the leafy wealth to charred poverty and twisted uselessness!. If only people could be trusted to venerate and guard the forest sanctities while wander ing among the .woods: So wonderful a padorama disclosed itself from that billt top-the waters of the reservoir below peeping through the trees; the plumed' hills: Rottnest lighthouse. pointing to wards the evening sky; the burnished silver of the sea.