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1 correction by doug.butler - Show corrections

BUSH FIRES.

With the return of each successive summer the recurrence of bush fires exposes the agri cultural and pastoral interests of this colony to very serious risks and losses. Nor is there any

reason to hope that as population advances this occasion of loss will disappear. Eventually, and at some remote period, bush fires may, indeed, cease to break out, but this period must necessarily be distant many yean, and in the interval we fear that the risk of bush fires will increase with the increase of population. In fact, we believe that there will be bush fires in South Australia so long as any ' bush' re* mains unreclaimed, and the risk of 'conflagra- tion will of course increase with the increasing number of persons by whom the bush is traversed. The matter, therefore, assumes a very serious aspect, especially when we consider that agri cultural stock, implements, crop, and the flocks and herds' of the squatters are being every year more freely distributed over the hitherto untrodden waste, or as tiaey are year by year skirting more closely its boundaries. The increase of population and the increase of property imply alike augmented danger and augmented destruction of property on each occasion of fire. Where formerly but scrub and timber fell victims to the devouring ele ment, now flocks, crops, homesteads, and gardens are consumed. Unless, thereforo, some special means be devised to meet the exigency, we must expect bush fires to be more frequent and more calamitous every year. We recently published a short account of a bush fire on Yorke's Peninsula. This fire, which raged for some weeks without intermis sion, was frequently visible from Adelaide, and the bright line of flame gilding the western horizon was distinctly visible night by night from the Mount Lofty Ranges. . To what extent damage may have been occasioned we are not informed; we know, however, that out of a flock of sheep numbering 2,200 recently purchased by tke young Messrs. Bowman 1,700 were destroyed. And not only have we to record this sacrifice of property, but to add the fact that so great was the fury of the fire, and so rapid its spread, that one of the Messrs. Bowman succeeded with great difficulty in saving his own life. On Mr. Ellis' s run, beyond the Hummocks, a terrific fire was recently raging for several days, consuming the feed for many miles, and extending near to the runs of the Messrs. Bowman Brothers, at Crystal Brook. Mr. Ellis's loss in sheep will not, however, exceed 300 or 400 ; but hens, as in the case beforementioned, human life was nearly sacrificed. A shepherd in the employ sf the gentleman last named was over taken by the flames, and pursued so rapidly, that finding escape impossible he was com- pelled to face the firo and rush through it to the burnt part of the run. In the neigh-

bourhood of Mount Gambler still more cala- mitous fires have been raging, one account stating that 4,000 sheep have been burnt to death, whilst another account enlarges the) number to 7,000. Our readers are aware that near Strathalbyn a most ruinous fire has occurred, involving the destruction of not only 3,800 acres of grass, but upwards of 800 acres of wheat, besides large quantities of bay, and nearly all the fences. Even in Che neighbour hood of Adelaide itself the danger referred to is not altogether obviated, as the recent fin at Mr. Grwynne's and Mr. Wflliams's are sufficient to show. In reference to the fin jut mentioned i we may. state that the present is the third anocesaiva summer in whieh the nasturaco

lections belonging to those gentlemen hare been consumed by accidental fires. The two objects in view are to diminish as much as possible the occurrence of bush fires, and to make tho best provision possible for reimbursing those who may be sufferers from this cause. The utmost vigilance should bo exercised by District Councils, the police, and other authorities, to check all practices that are known to be dangerous in this respect. The laws already in existence should be rigor- ously enforced, and, if present powers are not adequate to the occasion, the Legislature should be further appealed to. There can be no doubt that with the utmost caution accidental fires will happen, but every traveller and every rural settler knows that numerous bush fires break out in consequence of the most reckless and culpable conduct on the part of sportsmen, smokers, and camping parties generally. Farmers and flockowners, by examining the boundaries of their farms and runs, would doubtless perceive many points where the danger of fire would be unusually great, and these spots should be cleared. In other locali ties where the intervention of a road, or some peculiarity in the surface of the soil, might effec-

tually check the progress of a fire, that advantage is lost on account of some patch of scrub, or few yards of long grass, forming a link of con nection, where but for that there would be a separation. It is needless to say that a little attention to these matters would limit very greatly the extent of mischief whioh a bush fire might otherwise inflict. The labour that is expended in putting a fire out might in many instances, if applied as a preventative, . have obviated its occurrence. But though, by care and attention, bush fires may be reduced in number, and be diminished in extent, it is quite certain that they will come with every South Australian summer, and that by their means heavy losses will continue to be inflicted. We see no better | plan of meeting this liability than by farmers j and sheepowners forming mutual insurance clubs. The regular fire offices will not take bush risks, and as, therefore, the agriculturist and flockmaster cannot insure in Adelaide, they should unite with their neighbours for mutual protection. Something of the sort has been attempted at Willunga, and we should think the general extension of the idea would be very useful. The better plan would be to insure, not to the full extent of the value of the property exposed to danger, but say to ono-half its value. By this means a farmer or sheepowner would be ssved from actual ruin, but the insufficient amount of the insu rance to reimburse him from loss by firo would tend to make him personally more watchful and carefuL At all events something should be done to prevent if possible our summer skies from being lighted up by these destructive fires, and to avert that heavy loss and possible ruin in which those msy be in volved whose property is adjacent to the burning localities.

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