GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

2 January 2002

NSW Bushfire Updates
Tuesday, 1 January 2002


Narromine/Cabonne S44 Declared 1800 18/12/01
At the Claggers Spring (32,680ha) fire the lack of strong winds overnight has allowed for mopping up of the Sawpit Gully Sector. The fire remains contained. There will be an aerial reconnaissance of the broader vicinity today to identify any hot spots that might have resulted from yesterday’s electrical activity. Air support will be tasked to water bucketing those hot spots close to containment The fire is still active in unburnt country in SW and NE but remains within containment lines.

Wollongong/Wingecarribee S44 Declared 1600 25/12/01
Overnight RFS/NSWFB/CFA personnel worked on mopping up and securing containment lines. Should the predicted high winds develop today it will be very difficult to contain the fires behind their containment lines.
Mopping up continued at the Cordeaux Dam, Appin Road and Helensburgh fires notwithstanding that these fires remain active.
The Appin/Cataract (700ha) fire poses only minimal threat to life or property and is being controlled. This fire was previously known as the Cataract fire. RFS personnel will mop up and patrol along the existing fire perimeter for potential spot overs and flare-ups.

Blue Mountains S44 Declared 1500 24/12/01
600 RFS/NSWFB/CFS/MFS personnel supported by 105 tankers and heavy earthmoving equipment worked on the Mt Hall (30,000ha) fire overnight with the objective of containing the fire on the south side of villages from Blaxland to Wentworth Falls and Kings Tableland to the west.
Backburning achieved good depth, joining the main fire in the East. Other backburning continued west to Burns Road, Springwood but was stopped on the Anderson fire trail after active fire breached the proposed control line. To contain the breach a fallback control line will be implemented on the fire trail leaving the Anderson fire trail past Sally Wattle Water Hole to Queen Victoria Creek. Backburning to a good depth continued on the Kings Tableland Road and the containment lines from Kings Tableland Road to the cliff edge were completed.

Baulkham Hills/ Hornsby S44 BH declared 1600 26/12/01

Hornsby declared 1000 27/12/01 Preemptive

Shoalhaven S44 Declared 1800 24/12/01

Yesterday, under NW winds, the Hylands (30,800ha) fire broke containment lines in the Turpentine Sector. Control strategies for this sector were suspended as there was the possibility of continued unpredictable fire behaviour in heavy heath community fuels. Forecast worsening weather would provide the potential for the fire to threaten assets further to the east at Jerrawangala and beyond to the coast. Spotting over the escarpment will be monitored and waterbombing will be used to limit fire spread to the east.
Extensive fire edge remains unchecked in the west of the fire with fire burning progressively downslope into Yarramummum Creek. Rugged terrain means that this fire can only be monitored.
Tasmanian and Queensland personnel joined RFS personnel late yesterday.

Cessnock S44 Declared 1400 24/12/01
High humidity overnight resulted in little fire activity on the Big Yango (1350ha) fire. Crews will patrol and mop up this morning. Current conditions also allow implementation of direct attack strategy aimed at eliminating remaining fire activity using waterbucket with RAFT in support, together with RFS ground crews. RFS crews will deploy to Big Yengo Homestead and Howe’s Trail to undertake direct attack and where possible eliminate isolated areas of fire activity. Safety conditions have been assessed and include the need to watch for fallen and unstable trees, escape and re-ignitions, and changes to weather conditions.

Richmond Valley (part Maclean) S44 Declared 1500 24/12/01
The Serendipity fire (33,000ha) has been contained. Current threat analysis indicates that the control lines in the south west division could be breached. Today personnel will patrol and monitor the progress of the fire towards control lines and mopping up the edges as the fire reaches those edges. Because of lightning activity in the area yesterday and the number of suspicious ignitions additional regular patrols will be necessary for the next few days. There is a risk that a fire will be started outside the current control lines.

Oberon/Mulwaree S44 Oberon declared 2000 24/12/01

Mulwaree declared 2000 25/12/01
The Lochmarie (5592ha) fire is being controlled by combined RFS/NPWS personnel. Backburning of 5.5kms in the northern sector has been carried out to consolidate containment lines. A major spotover in the southern division was contained. Strong SW/NW winds have the potential to spread the fire past the uncontrolled eastern side of the fire at Kilo sector. Lightning caused four new fires all of which were extinguished. All roads and firetrails into and within the southern part of the Blue Mountains NP remain have closed to the incoming public. Blue Mountains and Kanangra-Boyd NPs remain closed. Owners of inholdings are being contacted regularly. Neighbour Plan prepared for contacting neighbours should fire jump containment lines.

Hawkesbury S44 Declared 2300 24/12/01
At the Grahames Creek (12,587ha) fire 300 personnel worked overnight backburning to a depth of 150 metres in the Kurrajong Heights sector to the Bells Line of Road. The fire is being monitored.
At the Limit Hill 2 (22,000ha) fire, a spotover occurred in H sector at Colo Heights. Backburning continued through the night and appears to have been successful. CFS/MFS crews worked to secure the northern edge. Bulldozers worked on the rest of the fire. A 30km containment line has been established from Colo River in S, then N to Colo Heights and then on to the Putty Road.
Although a very significant length (100kms) of containment lines have so far been constructed around these fires, in the event of the weather deteriorating crews do not feel confident on being able to hold either fire and property protection would become the primary focus.

Wollondilly/Campbelltown S44 Wollondilly declared 1300 25/12/01

Campbelltown declared 2300 25/12/01
The Warragamba and Mt Beloon Complex fires have been combined giving an overall fire size of 55,000ha. The new singular name for these fires is the ‘Burragorang Complex’ fire.
In the Nattai Division the fire broke through containment lines near Hilltop but was halted before the township. Threats to Bargo and Buxton townships are still possible due to fire activity resulting from local storms. All efforts have been placed into protecting lives and property.
In the Warragamba Division loss of property is still possible. Fire has entered the Whitegum Creek area and is pushing towards Lake Burragorang. The fire poses no current threat to properties or assets.

Gosford S44 Declared 1700 25/12/01
Rainfall on the fireground overnight resulted in backburning operations on the Spencer (4,340ha) fire being cancelled. Aerial reconnaissance will be carried out this morning to assess options for the implementation of backburning. This fire has the potential to breakout over the Simpsons Track to the north of Mangrove Mountain.
The Kulnura (100ha) fire has been contained and will be patrolled by SF personnel during day shifts.

Singleton/Muswellbrook S44 Declared 2000 25/12/01
There was little fire activity at the Martindale/Howes Valley (Bulga) fire last night. Three crews operated in the northern sector carrying out backburning operations and 40 personnel carried out backburning in the south west sector to secure containment lines. Some spotting occurred.
There is every confidence that this fire can be held within containment lines.

Sutherland S44 Declared 2300 25/12/01
There was little fire activity overnight. While the fire at Helensburgh/Port Hacking River is substantially contained concerns exist regarding spotting from this area into the unburnt coastal section of the Royal NP under forecast winds. The main risk is from arson and potentially to persons/public entering burnt areas. All containment lines at risk during the predicted strong W winds will be patrolled and kept under air observation. Police are maintaining arson patrols.

Grafton/Pristine Waters/Maclean (Clarence Valley) Copmanhurst S44
Declared 0600 24/12/01

The fire at Yellow Cutting (40ha (Pristine Waters), is being controlled by RFS/NPWS personnel.
Although the Blackadder Creek (3,250ha) fire has been contained strong N/NW winds could breach the containment lines immediately threatening Corindi Village, 1km to the S. Properties and persons (increased in numbers by holidaymakers). Longer term – 2-8hr – threats would be to isolated dwellings in the hinterland to the S (including stock, fences, equipment) to the villages (holiday resorts) of Arraweena, Mullaway and Woolgoolga.

Eurobodalla Declared 0700 28/12/01
Fires at Merricumbene (2,700ha) and Oualla Creek (300ha) continue to burn with the Oualla Creek fire doubling in size. The Merricumbene fire spread rapidly yesterday afternoon under strong NW winds. The immediate threat is from the fire spreading east in Deua NP and south into the Dampier SF. Under forecast weather conditions this fire will spread rapidly to the SE with spotting over large distances and can be expected to link up with the Oualla Creek fire. Consequently, property to the east will be under immediate threat. The fire is also expected to spread more slowly to the west, which will necessitate in backburning from the Minuma Range F/T. The main objectives remain as the safety of fire crews and the protection of life and property.
The Oualla Creek fire has a large firebreak to the east and, if forecast weather conditions eventuate, considerable pressure will be applied to the control line. With extreme fire weather forecast for today only minimal crews will be deployed to continue mopping up and backburning. Remaining crews will be available for the protection of life and property in the Moruya area. In the event that forecast weather conditions do not eventuate, backburning will be carried out along the Coondella sector.


There are going fires at:

  • Banda Banda (4500ha) (Kempsey)
  • Limit Hill (768ha)(Lithgow)
  • Wongawilli (10ha)(Wollongong)
  • Goonengerry (13ha) (Byron)
  • Sweetman Creek (Cessnock)
  • Patonga (Gosford)
  • Ewingar (Copmanhurst)
  • Hampton Additional (Cobar)
  • The following fires are being controlled:
  • McMasters Beach (20ha)(Gosford)
  • Byrne Plantation (150ha)(Kempsey)

The following fires have been contained:

  • Hargraves Road and Two Mile (2300ha)(Mudgee)
  • Cabbage Tree (5ha)(Great Lakes)
  • Red Mill Road (75ha)(Kempsey)
  • Cave Hill (Copmanhurst)
  • Mt Neville (850ha) (Copmanhurst)

‘Patrol’ status has been allocated to fires at:

  • Thumb Creek (70ha)(Nambucca)
  • Vale of Avoca (Hawkesbury)
  • Penrith Complex, Liverpool and Hinxman Road (Penrith)
  • Tanyia (Great Lakes)
  • Jerrara Road and Pylara (Mulwaree)
  • Plumb Road, Pilliga SF (Narrabri)
  • Angel Gap (Gilgandra)
  • Billinudgel Nature Reserve) and Minyon Falls (210ha) (Byron)
  • Lawson Road, Rocklilly and Mitchell Pass (Blue Mountains)
  • Barradine (Coonabarabran)
  • Covi and Bagnoo Hills (300ha))(Hastings).
  • Lawson Street 2 (Hawkesbury)
  • Oakygap (Armidale/Dumaresq)
  • Belmore Falls (Wingecarribee)
  • Blackadder Creek and Yellow Cutting (Pristine Waters)
  • Kulnura and Peats Ridge ( Gosford)
  • Wallaby Lane (Maclean)
  • Red Mill Road (Kempsey)
  • Yackerboon (Cobar)


  • 67 aircraft will be deployed today as under
  • 7 to Wollondilly 5 to Blue Mountains 10 to Hawkesbury
  • 6 to Shoalhaven 5 to Eurobodalla 4 to Gosford
  • 1 to Sutherland 3 to Wollongong 3 to Grafton
  • 1 to Cessnock 2 to Richmond Valley 1 to Baulkham Hills
  • 1 to Narromine 4 to Singleton 1 to Wingecarribee
  • 2 to Oberon 1 to Sutherland 1 to Hastings
  • 1 to Region East 3 to Task Force Alpha 2 to Task Force Bravo
  • 4 to Task Force Charlie


  • Total Fire Bans are in place for all areas of the State.
  • Today WSW winds in W half of NSW. NW elsewhere. VH/Extreme fire danger.
  • Wednesday WSW winds in W half of NSW. NW elsewhere. VH/Extreme fire danger likely N of line Broken Hill/Ivanhoe/Goulburn and E of Braidwood.
  • Thursday SW winds generally but SE on coast .
  • Friday SW winds W half of NSW. W/WNW remainder except for far N coast where NE.


  • Today Chance of showers/thunderstorms far north coast.
  • Wednesday Chance of showers far SE corner
  • Thursday Isolated showers likely in far SE corner clearing early.
  • Friday Chance isolated showers/thunderstorms pm far N coast.

For more information or interviews:
John Winter/Cameron Wade – Duty Media Officer 02 9898 1855

For more information:
MEDIA ONLY: John Winter/Cameron Wade Duty Media Officer (02) 9898 1855

Current Situation: Inferno on the city’s doorstep 
(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002)

Unprecedented hot and windy conditions, which have plunged Sydney into the driest spell in its recorded history, are posing new threats to the city as the Christmas bushfire disaster stretches into its tenth day.
By last night, with no relief in sight from the gusty north-westerly winds:

  • Humidity had fallen to 5 per cent.

  • Sixty-six fires were burning across 367,000 hectares.

  • The live fire front had more than doubled – from 630 kilometres to in excess of 1300 kilometres.

  • The total area burnt out grew yesterday from 367,000 to 500,000 hectares.

  • Remarkably, despite the scale of the fires, no property was lost.

As hundreds of firefighters from six states battled to protect homes and residents, arsonists brought the devastation to the city’s doorstep.
Police are trying to track mobile phone records to catch a man who reported, and probably lit, a fire at Pennant Hills about 2pm. The blaze raced toward houses at North Epping and then leapt the Lane Cove River to threaten homes at South Turramurra.
Last night several hundred residents were being evacuated from the townships of Kurrajong Heights and Kurrajong, in the lower Blue Mountains, in the face of a huge fire sweeping south-west into the Grose Valley.
The other area of concern was in the Shoalhaven area, where fires fanned by rising westerlies broke through firebreaks early yesterday, heading for Sussex Inlet. Evacuations were under way last night on Sussex Inlet Road and in the Wandandian area.
The NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, told the Herald last night he was on the verge of calling for more interstate reinforcements to join the crews already brought from Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Ten firefighting managers are expected to arrive from New Zealand today.
Mr Koperberg was also seeking aircraft support to help the water bombardment that proved one of the most successful weapons in combating the fires yesterday.
“In terms of a weather pattern that sustains fire of this magnitude, I have never seen anything like it in my 32 years of service,” Mr Koperberg said.
“The Bureau of Meteorology has told us, with some confidence, that tomorrow will be worse than today; and today was only the second time in 50 years there had been humidity levels of 5 per cent, which is a critical factor.
“Most of the fires have broken their containment lines. Only Sutherland, the Blue Mountains and parts of Cessnock have held. The fires at Nattai, Avon Dam, Shoalhaven, Hawkesbury and Spencer have all broken. And there is a horrendous fire in Pennant Hills Park which is threatening homes.”
Asked if five new fires that began yesterday were deliberately lit, Mr Koperberg replied: “I cannot see any other explanation.”
He described the situation in the Blue Mountains – one of the three fires which yesterday remained under control – as “knife-edge stuff”. “Who would have thought things could deteriorate to such an extent?”
The Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus, echoed the concern, saying: “The sheer number of fires, their size, winds this strong and air as dry – this is a situation which must be very nearly unique.”
Searing winds turned late-afternoon firefighting into a marathon yesterday and conditions are forecast to worsen today. Winds of between 40 and 60 kmh are expected to combined with humidity of lower than 10 per cent and temperatures again into the mid-30s.
Underlining authorities’ dire predictions is the vast amount of firefighting equipment committed. A spokesman for the Rural Fire Service, John Winter, said already there were more firefighters, more appliances and more aircraft in use than during the disastrous bushfires of 1994.
In Pennant Hills, 250 firefighters were trying to save homes, assisted by three aircraft, including the Erickson 30 helicopter on contract to the Victorian Government. The helicopter can dump up to 9000 litres of water in a single flight.
With the M2 freeway closed from the tollgates to Epping Road, firefighters were battling to save homes.
“There may be urgent evacuations in the North Epping and South Turramurra area tonight,” Mr Winter said.

Wednesday, 2 January 2002 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a Total Fire Ban in the following Weather Forecast Districts:  STATEWIDE

The weather forecast for this area is very high temperature, low humidity and moderate to strong winds. These conditions are conducive to fire activity and the community is urged to take particular care. Fire danger in this area will be extreme or approaching extreme.
The Total Fire Ban will become effective for the 24 hours from MIDNIGHT TONIGHT, Tuesday, January 01, 2002 for 24 hours until MIDNIGHT Wednesday, 2 January 2002.
During a Total Fire Ban no fire of any kind may be lit in the open. This includes incinerators and barbecues which burn solid fuel, e.g. wood or charcoal. You may use a gas or electric barbecue, but only if:

  • It is on residential property within 20m of the house or dwelling;

  • It is under the direct control of a responsible adult;

  • The ground around the barbecue is cleared for 3m of all material which could burn;

  • You have a continuous supply of running water.

     For more information: DUTY MEDIA OFFICER: 02 9898 1855

Fire Locations 

Fire Locations in the Sydney
Region, 31 December 2001

Fire Locations in the Sydney
Region, 1 January 2002

Fire Locations in NSW,
31 December2001

Source: New South Wales Rural Fire Service

The Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA) routinely evaluates the NOAA AVHRR satellite sensor to detect and locate vegetation fires and high-temperature events. In Australia hot events depicted by the satellite can represent wildfires or prescribed fires as well as industrial activities (e.g., gas flares, smelters) and hot surfaces (e.g., rocks heated by solar radiation during the daytime overpasses of the satellite). Thus, DOLA displays two products of hot spot maps: the automatically generated high-temperature event maps (which include false alarms) and the manually generated fire maps. All hotspot locations are geo-referenced and where required as Australian Map Grid. On some days up to four NOAA-AVHRR passes are used to identify hot events.

The manual method (human operator) provides greater accuracy however it takes longer. Thus, the issue of the manually generated fire maps is delayed (not real-time). Hot spots are located using NOAA-AVHRR channel 3 on early morning (0050-0340hrs) and mid morning (0450-0630hrs) images.

click here to enlarge (55 KB)

Fig.1. Fire Detection Map for Australia for 31 December 2001 overlaid on a pan-Australian
vegetation cover map. Source fire coordinates (manual):
Satellite Remote Sensing Services Department of Land Administration (DOLA)
Source of vegetation and fuel type map: Luke and McArthur (1977)
(Please take into account, that this presentation mainly represents fire events
from Western Australia and Northern Territories )

The Department of Natural Resources and Environment is responsible for the management of fire prevention and suppression on public lands in Victoria. The last updated bushfire statistic of 2 January 2002 shows 15 controlled fires. The locations of these fires are displayed in the statewide fire situation map below.

click here to enlarge (32 KB)

Fig.2. Statewide Fire Situation Map of Victoria, 2 January 2002
(for legend of symbols see: National Resources and Environment)

Nasa´s Earthobservatory

click here to enlarge (1756 KB)

click here to enlarge (1756 KB)

View on Australia’s fires on 2 January 2002 View of fires burning in Sydney, 31 December 2001

Fig.3. These images were acquired by
Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 25 December 2001.
For details see:
(For earlier satellite images: see Australia fire updates of 30 December 2001)

Operational Significant Event Imagery (OSEI)
The following significant events were identified by Satellite Analysis Branch meteorologists and reviewed by the OSEI support team of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

click to enlarge (488 KB)

Fig. 5. NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-12 POES AVHRR LAC satellite image, 31 December 2001.
Smoke (indicated by the yellow arrow) is visible from fires burning around Sydney, Australia. About 15,000 fire fighters were battling 100 or more blazes which are within 15
miles of the city. Conditions are described as the worst in thirty years.
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is the National Meteorological Service for Australia and provides essential meteorological services to all sectors of the Australian community.

Fire danger:

Latest News on Forest Fires in Australia: see: Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics:
Bushfire set to worsen according to weekand weather predictions (published by ABC News Online)
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service is urging people living under threat of bushfires to remain vigilant despite today´s respite in conditions.

Australia livestock, crops escape worst of fires (published by PlanetArk)
Fires killed about 5,000 sheep and about 100 cattle in the past two days, but crops, mainly wheat, had beeen harvested before the fires hit, the New South Wales Farmers Association told yesterday.

Australian officials fear fires will flare again (published by PlanetArk)
The blazes could flare again with a return of high temperatures and strong winds over the weekend.

NSW Ablaze – several articles (published by The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald)

Burning questions after week aflame (published by The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald)

Canadian Erickson Air-Crane Helitanker from Victoria to attack N.S.W. fires (published by The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald)

For regular fire update information: See Website of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service:

The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) has offered assistance to liaise Australian fire authorities with Global Emergency Response and the Russian Ministry for Emergency Situations (EMERCOM). Russia offers the services of the Ilyushin 76, the largest water bomber currently available (42,000 litre tank), for international use. The NSW fire authorities have been notified by the offer.
For more information on Global Emergency Response see
and click on Global Emergency Response.

For more information on Australia see the IFFN country notes and have a look at the Australian and New Zealand links.
For background Information see also: Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics

Photo Gallery

Air saviour … A helicopter drops water on a new fire in Blaxland in the Blue Mountains. High winds and hot temperatures saw fires in NSW develop rapidly yesterday. Photo: Sean Davey.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Firefighters Lindsay William and Shane Slack control a backburn at Russell Avenue, Valley Heights. Photo: Sean Davey.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Long way to help … NSW Rural firefighter Bob Berg from Temora, Western NSW, controls a backburn operation in Angophora street, Valley Heights.
Photo: Sean Davey.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Hazard reduction in a hotspot between Picton and Buxton, south-west of
Sydney. Photo: Jacky Ghossein.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

New South Wales and Victorian Rural Fire Service crews watch and plot the
path of the bushfires burning west of Hill Top. Photo: Nick Moir.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Rural firefighter Ron Hale keeps an eye on backburning near Oystershell
Road, Mangrove Creek, near Spencer. Photo: Rick Stevens.
Source: The  Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

The front … A large fire burns through the Nattai National Park near Mittagong in the Southern Highlands. More than 15,000 firefighters, from NSW and interstate, supported by 800 trucks and 55 aircrafts are battling the fires which surround Sydney. Photo: AFPTom.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Bushfires burn extremely close to homes in Pennant Hills.
Photo: Penny Bradfield.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

The danger is evident from this aerial shot. Photo: Penny Bradfield.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

Elvis the helicopter working against a blood red sky in Maquarie Park.
Photo: Nick Moir.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

The fire in Pennant Hills being doused by the Erikson skycrane.
Photo: Penny Bradfield.
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 2 January 2002.

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