Fires in Australia

Fires in Australia

30 September 2011

acquired September 26, 2011

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite detected several fires burning in southeast Queensland on September 26, 2011. The fires are outlined in red.

The fire season in Queensland, Australia runs through the dry winter and spring. The Queensland government declared a fire danger period from September 4, 2011, to January 2, 2012, when fires are allowed by permit only. The fires shown in this image likely include both deliberately set fires and natural wildfires.

Many of Australia’s ecosystems require fire to stimulate growth and regenerate some plant species. As a result, the landscape is extremely prone to fire and burns easily.

CSIRO. (2008, February 14).Bushfire in Australia. Accessed September 26, 2011.
CSIRO. (2008, April 30).The months of a fire season. Accessed September 26, 2011.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service. (2011, September).Fire danger period declared. Accessed September 26, 2011.


NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Aqua – MODIS

acquired September 27, 2011

Large fires are a regular feature in the savannah grasslands of Australia’s Northern Territory. This image, taken on September 27, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite, shows three massive fires. Active fires are marked in red, while newly burned land is dark brown and black.

Whether deliberately started or ignited by lightning or accident, these fires shows signs of having been at least partly managed by people. Straight lines define some of the edges of the burned land, suggesting the presence of some kind of manmade firebreak. The Northern Territory Government uses MODIS measurements of fire locations and burned areas to track fire across the sparsely populated territory.

NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Aqua – MODIS

acquired September 29, 2011

Several large fires burning near Alice Springs, Australia, blanketed roads and railroads with smoke and interfered with travel on September 29, 2011. In this image, taken in the early afternoon of September 29 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite, a thick cloud of smoke covers hundreds of kilometers south and north of Alice Springs. The fires are outlined in red.

Several large fires have burned throughout northern and central Australia during September. In the large image, which includes a much wider area, smoke hangs over most of Australia’s vast Northern Territory. Fire has been so widespread this year, reports the Sydney Morning Herald because normally sparse grasses currently cover much of the country after a rainy year. The dry winter season allowed the grass to dry enough that any small spark can set off a large fire. Grass fires are dangerous because they move quickly and can change direction without warning.


ABC News. (2011, September 29). Cooler weather brings hope to weary firefighters. Accessed September 29, 2011.
Neil, M. (2011, September 29). Drought, rain, and now grass fire risk. Sydney Morning Herald. Accessed September 29, 2011.
Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services. (2011, September 29). Update #5 – Fires – Alice Springs. Accessed September 29, 2011.

NASA image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

Aqua – MODIS

Northern Territory fires cause traffic, train delays
September 29, 2011 2:41PM FIRES burning out of control in Central Australia are causing delays to cars and trains.

The bushfires, some of which have been burning for weeks in parts of the Northern Territory and South Australia, have burned through an area larger than Belgium.

In a statement, Bushfires NT said fires around Alice Springs were causing smoke hazard to traffic.

“Motorists are urged to use care and should reconsider plans to travel on remote unformed roads,” the organisation said.

“Motorists should heed all warning signs. Motorists are advised that due to potential fire threat, a number of roads are closed,” it said.

The main areas where smoke is causing problems are on the Stuart Highway, Tanami Rd and the Luritja Highway.

Train services have also been affected with a freight train held up south of Alice Springs and the Ghan passenger train also facing possible delays.

Fire crews battled the fires through last night concentrating on the blaze around the tourist hot spot of Kings Canyon.

An extra 17 firefighters from South Australia joined the efforts last night.

Incident controller Sergeant Shaun Gill said cooler conditions and a change in wind direction had helped fire crews make “significant inroads”.

NT fires prompt travel warnings
18:00 AEST Thu Sep 29 2011

Authorities have asked people in central Australia to postpone non-essential travel, as 21 bushfires continue to burn.

With fuel loads at their biggest in 30 years due to unusually high rain the past 18 months, fires have caused havoc in the past few weeks in the Northern Territory.

An area larger than Belgium has burned and there has been a spike in the number of people in Alice Springs being treated for breathing difficulties.

“Ideally people should postpone non-essential travel until the fire threats abate,” incident controller Sergeant Shaun Gill said.

He said the main threat was in the Henbury area, south of Alice Springs, where a large fire was burning despite back-burning and the creation of firebreaks.

Other areas of particular concern were several fires to the north and east of Alice Springs, he said.

Significant fires are burning at Bond Springs, Pine Hill, Aileron and Hamilton Downs.

“We are urging everyone to drive carefully using headlights and be alert for smoke hazards as well as wildlife and livestock on the roads,” Sgt Gill said.

Train services have also been affected with three freight trains held up, one for more than 24 hours, due to the fires.

A spokesman for Genesee and Wyoming Australia, which owns nearly 5000 kilometres of railway track in South Australia and the Northern Territory, said the trains would be able to proceed once integrity tests were completed.

Grassland fire threatens Central Australia
September 30, 201112:00AM

Alice Springs residents watch a bush fire blazing near homes earlier this month. Picture: Chloe GeraghtySource: The Advertiser

Many parts of the nation have grass fuel loads not experienced in 30 or 40 years, on the back of heavy rains, particularly last summer.

Central Australia was in the grip of a one-in-30-year bushfire, Bushfires Northern Territory director Steve Sutton said. By yesterday, most of the fires had been contained, but authorities were still dealing with fires near Alice Springs.

Bushfire expert Phil Cheney predicted that tens of millions of hectares could burn. “It’s likely to burn for months,” he said.


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