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In the southwest United States, brushfires, bushfires and even full blown forest fires are, sadly, a common occurrence. It is perhaps not surprising that brushfires are also common in Australia’s dry forested regions. However, in America, there has yet to be one single brushfire that termites are responsible for starting. Of course, there is an endless amount of ways that a forest can be set ablaze; after all, it only takes a spark. That being said, there is no way in which any type of wood-boring insect can be responsible for a brushfire, right? Of course that’s true, insects cannot start fires, unless you are counting brushfires that occur within Australia, of course. The small town of Parkersville in western Australia recently saw what may have very well been the first forest fire in history to be instigated by termites.


The fire started after a wooden utility pole that had been supporting powerlines fell to the ground. The electricity that had been passing through the downed power lines promptly ignited patches of dry vegetation that lied within a large forested region. The fire spread through the forest rapidly, and by the time it was extinguished, a whopping fifty houses had been completely destroyed. Understandably, the residents who had lived within the homes were, and still are, upset over the situation, and they are determined to hold the perpetrators of the fire responsible for its destructive consequences. Unfortunately, only termites can be blamed for the fire, as the termite-infested wooden pole only fell as a result of the termite damage that it had sustained during the past several decades.


Despite the fact that ravenous termites are indirectly responsible for the fire, many residents who are now homeless thanks to termites are looking to blame an employee working for the local power company. This employee was tasked with checking the architectural integrity of old utility poles in the Parkersville area. However, the employee, oddly enough, had never been trained to recognize termite-induced damage to utility poles; perhaps the employee’s superiors are the ones to blame. In any case, this story proves that termite destruction to homes can come in many forms.


Do you find it surprising that the employee had not been trained to detect termite-damaged utility poles given the high rate of termite infestations in western Australia?