On a perfectly still winter evening, with water trucks and shovels at the ready, Wayne Baldry pulls his hat down on his head and raises his collar to cover the back of his neck.

He lights his drip torch and makes his way along the break. The fire catches quickly, burning the trash from between the stalks of sugarcane.

Sweat dripping from his brow, Wayne doesn’t take his eye off the fire for a single moment. Water is sprayed liberally to extinguish the glowing embers that fill thesapphire sky.

Cars pull to the side of the road to admire the roaring splendour of orange, red, purple and white. It’s as though Dorothea Mackellar had Bundaberg’s cane fires in mind when she penned the words “her beauty and her terror”.

Cane burning is a skill the Baldry family has honed over generations; a testament to their ability to manage their land and understand weather patterns.

“Bundy snow” events are becoming less frequent every crush season, as canefarmers diversify into other crops.

With the help of the Baldry family, photographer Paul Beutel has been capturing the dying practice for the past seven years. Like much of his work, Paul’s poignant photos will serve as an important public record of Bundaberg’s history long after those who can remember cane fires are gone.

Paul’s coffee table book, documenting Bundaberg’s cane fires, is available for purchase at www.paulbeutelphoto.com.au