GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

4 January 2002

Current Situation: Pledge to cut red tape for burnoffs 
(Source & Copyright: The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 January 2002)
By Robert Wainwright, Stephen Gibbs and Gerard Noonan
The State Government will free up bureaucratic barriers to hazard reduction in the wake of public controversy about the intensity of the Christmas bushfires. The Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Debus, has told the Herald he wants approval by authorities such as local councils made simpler so that district fire committees wanting to burn off before the peak bushfire season can do so quickly. Mr Debus defended the Government’s record in prescribed burns against critics who say too much forest fuel was a big factor in the intensity of the fires in the past two weeks.
“I am in no way opposed to improving methods by which we manage the hazard reduction program,” he said. “In fact, I would ask that things are improved. Neither would I suggest that district committees always make the most appropriate decisions.”
There had already been moves to improve management procedures in the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, said yesterday that there was no end in sight to the bushfires, which were fanned by “a very unique weather pattern, the likes of which we’ve probably not seen for 40-odd years”.
With no rain looming, and high temperatures and strong winds over the weekend, the Bureau of Meteorology warned that Sydney was headed towards its driest summer in a century. The manager of NSW Weather Services, Andrew Treloar, said yesterday was day 16 without rainfall. he record for Sydney in summer is 22. Temperatures could hit 40 degrees on Monday, when there might be late showers or thunderstorms but probably no useful rain. Extreme weather of another form was yesterday hampering the journey of two additional Erickson Air-Crane Helitankers from the United States. A snow storm had grounded the Antanov cargo plane chartered to fly the Air-Cranes from Oregon to Sydney at Atlanta’s Hartfield International Airport. Mr Koperberg, who said on Thursday that he expected the Air-Cranes to arrive as early as tomorrow, was yesterday unsure when they would be available, or when their cousin Elvis would go back to Victoria.
After a productive day of backburning and fire containment, at least 80 blazes were still burning around NSW. A 54-year-old RFS volunteer yesterday suffered the most serious injury directly related to the fires when he sustained superficial burns to the toes of his right foot battling a blaze near Oberon, west of the Blue Mountains. The areas of greatest concern were the Blue Mountains, where 500 fighters using 115 appliances were battling to protect townships including Woodford and Faulconbridge.
The Shoalhaven fire, which hit Sussex Inlet on Wednesday, was burning towards the navy base HMAS Cresswell but no longer threatening Jervis Bay. That fire would not be contained before it reached the coastal town of Bendalong. The Eurobodalla fire had the potential to affect Moruya on the far South Coast, and 600 residents evacuated from Colo and Colo Heights north-west of Sydney on Wednesday have not been allowed home. In a message relayed by the Premier, Bob Carr, the Queen expressed her sympathy for victims of the fires and praised emergency services personnel, particularly volunteer firefighters. Mr Carr continued to express outrage at arsonists, saying he was amazed a 16-year-old girl was being questioned over a fire at Westleigh, near Pennant Hills. The girl, the first female to be linked to arso since the Christmas bushfires erupted, was charged late yesterday.
A 14-year-old from Lavington was arrested after allegedly lighting grassland behind a petrol station in
Albury on Thursday. He was bailed to appear in Albury Children’s Court on January 24.

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 

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click here to enlarge (1,2 MB)

Fire Locations in the Sydney
Region, 1 January 2002

Fire Locations in NSW,
1 January 2002

Source: New South Wales Rural Fire Service

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 5 January 2002 shows 12 controlled fires. The locations of these fires are displayed in the statewide fire situation map below.

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Fig.2. Statewide Fire Situation Map of Victoria, 5 January 2002
(for legend of symbols see: National Resources and Environment)

Nasa´s Earthobservatory

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View on Australia’s fires on 2 January 2002

Fig.3. These images were acquired by
Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 2 January 2002.
For details see:
(For earlier satellite images: see Australia fire update 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):

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Fig. 5.GOES 8 satellite image, 3 January 2002.
This GMS Channel 1 image shows smoke plumes (indicated by the yellow arrows) over the
Tasman Sea from fires burning around Sydney, Australia. No lives have been
lost, but more than 160 houses have been destroyed north, west, and south of Sydney
according to USA Today. As of Thursday, about 20,000 firefighters were battling
(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:
Northern Territory High in the Alice Springs

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)

“Elvis” – ein Hubschrauber rettet Leben, in German (published by Deutsche Presse Agentur)

 Australian fires burn from mountains to sea (published by Environmental News Network)

Extra fire crews called in as bushfires continue  to rage (published by ABC News Online)

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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