Indigenous groups say they have a better way to fight wildfires

The Oregonian

More frequent fires. Smaller, cooler blazes. Nighttime and early morning burns.

Those are three important principles of what’s known as cultural burning, a firefighting practice honed by Indigenous people in Australia over the past 60,000 years. The techniques stand in marked contrast to the “hazard-reduction” burns employed in the U.S., Canada and other places prone to wildfires, including most of Australia. Indigenous advocates say their own methods are more effective, safer and kinder to native flora and fauna.

In the wake of Black Summer three years ago, Australian politicians said they’d prioritize Indigenous techniques. It’s since funded a range of grants and says it is continuing to make investments. But Indigenous organizations say far more is needed, especially now, with El Niño conditions bringing warmer temperatures that portend a more severe fire season.

Bloomberg News spoke with two leaders of Australian organizations that promote and provide training in traditional burning methods and a Canadian councilor who has welcomed Indigenous Australians to his province to help conduct cultural burns there. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

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