Our Member Brian Downing combined his expertise in Ecological matters with his dry sense of humour to provide a most entertaining and informative address about the use of fire as an environmental management tool. After doing a BSc in South Africa, majoring in Geology and Botany, Brian went on to complete an MSc and a PhD in Ecology, and so he is very well qualified to deal with the issue. Fire is a natural and important part of earth’s landscape, and this function goes back millions of years. Initially the earth was covered in forest, but later this changed when about one third became grassland. It is crucial for grassland to be defoliated otherwise a thatch develops at the top of the growth, resulting in a fatal waterproof and light-retarding ‘roof’ above the lower growth and roots. Many people think that it is desirable to exclude fire from nature, but Brian pointed out how counter-productive this can be. Both Europe and the USA are not good at managing the situation, as they either have no forestry management or else it includes a ‘no fires’ policy. Nevertheless fire needs to be treated with great respect; a grass fire can generate temperatures of 1000 degrees C, and when fire vortices occur, they are so powerful that no human intervention is capable of counteracting the effects. Thank you Brian for a fascinating session!