Waiting for thick smoke to settle around the Gospers Mountain bushfire, firefighters and conservation specialists were delighted to learn their efforts had spared the prehistoric Wollemi pine from going up in flames.
The NSW government on Wednesday confirmed the wild Wollemi pines - which have grown since the age of dinosaurs - survived the megablaze.
Australia’s Wollemi Pines, giant prehistoric trees thought to be extinct until 1994, survived the dinosaurs and now firefighters have nursed them through the country’s worst bushfires in generations to live another day https://t.co/BTGZG33rlE pic.twitter.com/x9qgadKFCj— Reuters Science News (@ReutersScience) January 15, 2020
The fire was brought under control this week after two-and-a-half months, burning more than 512,000 hectares northwest of Sydney.
Situated deep in the Wollemi National Park, NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and NSW Rural Fire Service monitored the fire as it approached the pines, placing fire retardant and an irrigation system around each of the trees.
NSW environment minister Matt Kean said on Thursday that the organisations pulled out all the stops to protect these pines.
The Wollemi Pines outlasted the dinosaurs and thanks to the mammoth efforts of NPWS they look like they will survive these bushfires https://t.co/LKOHLeOOkk— Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) January 15, 2020
"If the fires went through we wanted them to be a cool burn as opposed to a hot burn to give them the best chance of survival," Mr Kean told ABC Radio.
"The fire did go through there, we had a few days of thick smoke so couldn't tell if they'd been damaged. We waited with bated breath."
Mr Kean said specialist teams were winched in from NPWS via helicopter to ensure the trees had the best possible protection.
"There's a few that are charred, I think we lost two trees. But there are around 200 trees in the population and the remaining 200 survived," he said.
"The Wollemi Pine has outlasted the dinosaurs and thanks to the massive effort of the NP&W firefighters, who have just done an incredible job this fire season, they look like they've saved these trees."
Although the location of the pines within the national park is undisclosed, Mr Kean said illegal visitation remains a significant threat to the tree's survival in the wild due to the risk of trampling and diseases.
© AAP 2020