Watch Sugar Cane Burning at Nambour Qld (BL80)
My first and only time of watching sugar cane burn was as a 15 year old at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast. I remember being at a house on a hill overlooking all these sugarcane fields and the sheer beauty of the fire in the night sky. So hence my eagerness to see it once again, it made my Bucket List.
However, a lot can and does change in an industry in 45 years and due to a number of factors, most sugarcane is no longer burned but is harvested by huge machinery now. About the only area to still burn cane on a regular basis is the Burdekin area, cantered around Ayr. The reason is twofold. They still flood irrigate in this area and the fields are much bigger in size than elsewhere. The property owner told me it wouldn’t be economically viable to harvest green.
I had enquired at the Ayr Information Centre and was given a brochure and a contact number for Greg, a passionate cane farmer with 40 years experience. He does tours for a not donation which he then donates to a children’s charity. After ringing him at 1pm he told me to ring back about 5pm that day. I did this and he informed me that he personally wasn’t burning that day but a neighbour was and to meet me at a certain location in 30 to 45 minutes. I arrived at the property just west of Brandon with another couple there and also a young couple with 3 kids in tow. The family were from Brisbane and had spent the past 10 months doing the lap. We walked about 300 metres up the road to the corner of a field where the fire would eventually burn to.
The water truck headed up between the fields and it wasn’t long before we could see the plumes of black smoke and hear the crackling of the fire as it raced through the field. Then fire flicking above the cane came into sight. At the same time a man spot burned along the edge of the field from the opposite end direction towards the corner we were at. As the roar intensified, culminating in a big “whoosh” as the two fires met. As the fire raced closer to our corner where we had to step backwards up the road as the heat was overwhelming.
I didn’t time it but the burning of the 20 acres took only a matter of minutes before it was all over. As Greg said, “It takes longer to drive out here than it does for the field to burn.”
It was an amazing experience to be so up close to it. To feel the intense heat was almost overpowering. Although the sun had set it was not fully dark but the sheer beauty of this sight will remain with me forever and I an so glad I finally got to experience this amazing sight. As I drove back into Ayr and then on to Home Hill I could see 3 or 4 fires in the distance.