North Australia has the largest and most frequent fires in the whole continent . This part of the country is primed for regular fire with vast grassy landscapes that flourish during the wet season and then, over months with very little rain, dry to a tinderbox. The problems these fires create for the people of the north are considerable, whether it is in managing cattle stations or protecting fire-sensitive plants and animals.
In the higher rainfall savanna woodlands—in the north Kimberley, the Top End and Cape York—as much as half of the area is burnt either every year or every second year, typically late in the dry season. As these late fires are generally intensely hot and extensive in area, they have the potential to devastate populations of fire-sensitive native plants and animals, to be costly and disruptive to pastoral operations, to pose a threat to communities and property, while having implications for greenhouse gas emissions.
Further south, east and inland, fires become less frequent because of the lower annual rainfall and generally more intensive use of savannas for grazing cattle. This reduces the fuel available for fires. Wildfires are often actively suppressed, and prescribed burning is generally excluded so that pasture can be used as livestock forage rather than as fuel for fire. In many of these inland regions, there is evidence that this reduced burning has contributed to the unchecked growth and increasing dominance of native trees and shrubs in once open grasslands and woodlands.