GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

8 January 2002

Current Situation: Residents given all clear to return home 
(Source& Copyright: The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 January 2002)
By Brigid Delaney
Two and a half thousand residents of townships on the NSW South Coast are returning to their homes today after they were evacuated yesterday when wild winds whipped up a fire burning in the area.No houses were lost last night, despite ferocious blazes that moved all the way to the sea. The fire destroyed a shed and a motor vehicle.
” The South Coast fires continues to be active in the Shoalhaven area and Eurobodalla,” said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg.The South Coast blaze was exacerbated by hot and dry conditions and lack of rainfall that had been enjoyed by Blue Mountain’s residents on Sunday night and Monday morning.Today waterbombers, including Elvis, concentrated on flare-ups in the Shoalhaven area.But the emergency is far from over, with temperatures in the region moving into the high 20s. Commissioner Koperberg responded to criticisms about fire hazard reduction schemes. He said schemes such as black burning and containment lines required a certain amount of guess work; “We don’t know when or where the next lightning strike will be,” he said.
“We have a series of fires burning in extreme dry air. There are no guarantees fighting fires.”
He said that the dry conditions have resulted in the phenomenon whereby some fires are burning in the same place twice.
He also defended criticism that professional firefighters were being left out in the cold, in fighting this summer’s bush fires. “Professional firefighters have to look after urban NSW,” he said. He praised volunteer firefighters, many of whom, he said have decades of experience fighting bush fires. Across the state many firefighters are now involved in a “mopping up” effort, ensuring that affectedbush land does not flare up again.

Current Situation: Homes under threat in Shoalhaven region
(Source& Copyright: ABC News Online, 8 January 2002)
Firefighters continue to battle a blaze which is threatening private property in the Shoalhaven region on the New South Wales south coast. The Princes Highway between Sussex Inlet turnoff and Lake Conjola remains closed, and residents of Fisherman’s Paradise are still unable to return to their homes.
Firefighters were hoping a change in wind direction would help them in their battle to contain the fires in the popular tourist spot, but so far the southerly wind has had no impact.Deputy incident controller John Cullen says the hot and windy conditions are unfavourable and there is still a threat to property in the Martin Ridge Road area.But he says he is buoyed by the news that two sky cranes are on their way to help control the fires.
“They will certainly make a difference and it will get us back into offensive firefighting on some of those areas rather than defensive,” he said.Meanwhile, firefighters continue to mop up in the fire-affected areas west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains and north of the city.Shoalhaven mayor Greg Watson says the area’s $42 million tourist industry has been severely affected.
“So far I would estimate that the average impact on most of the businesses that relate directly to tourism would be about $40,000,” he said.
The New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, is touring bushfire affected areas along thesouth coast.
Central west
A bushfire in the state’s central-west at Orange has been contained and crews are now ‘blacking’ out every sign of smoke or smouldering.The blaze at Lidster, west of Orange has burnt about 200 hectares of mainly farmland, however New South Wales Agriculture says there has been no loss of stock or crops. Meanwhile, firefighters are putting the finishing touches on a containment line around a bushfire south of Oberon in the Bindook area.
Fire ban
After a record 10 days in force, the total fire ban in New South Wales has been partially lifted today, although firefighters are warning conditions will worsen again.From today, metropolitan and central tablelands districts are exempt from the state’s total fire ban, which has been in place for most of the crisis.But while rain has helped bring relief to some areas, the ban still applies to all other parts of the state.The Rural Fire Service’s Cameron Wade says there are more hot windy conditions ahead and people still need to be very careful.
“The weather conditions will deteriorate into this afternoon and certainly we’re not out of the fire situation yet and we need to be extremely careful with flames, campfires and so forth.”
The lifting of the total fire ban for metropolitan and central tablelands districts will be under review this afternoon, as temperatures in some areas climb back into the 30s.
National approach
Western Australia’s Government has called for a nationally coordinated approach to fighting bushfires, as a result of the New South Wales fire devastation.Acting WA Premier Eric Ripper has written to Prime Minister John Howard saying it is ironic that Australia has an agreement for rapid deployment of firefighters to help the United States battle bushfires, but there is no formal agreement across the Australian states and territories.The WA Government wants a national bushfire policy drawn up based on fire prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.Mr Ripper says while the New South Wales fires have proven individual states will assist each other in times of need, there is no formal strategy in place.

Fire Weather Forecast for the Pacific Region

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Fire Weather Index for the
Pacific Region for 9 January 2002.
(Source: ECPC Fire Weather Index Forecast)

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 8 January 2002 shows 9 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, 8 January 2002
(for legend of symbols see: National Resources and Environment)

Bird Satellite (German AerospaceCenter / DLR)

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Figure 1 and 2show image fragments of the BIRD HSRS MIR
band (at 3.4 – 4.2 µm) obtained over Australia / New South Wales regionat
~ 150° longitude East between the South latitudes 33° and 36° on 4 January2002 at
00 h:09 min:13 sec (UTC) and on 5 January 2002 at 00 h:08 min:16 sec (UTC)for
Sydney  overpass, respectively. (This is of about 10:08 h local time). Thefires are red color
coded to be  in good contrast to the “ambient” black  and whitebackground with apparent
pixel  temperatures lower than 52° C (325 K). The changes of the firelines within 24 hours
can be well examined by comparison of the two figures.

Some remarks on BIRD´sdetection  of  the “Cristmas Fires”.

For more information on BIRD: See (News).

Australian Centre for Remote Sensing (ACRES)

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Fig.3. SPOT Image acquired 8 January 2002 by the Australian Centre for
Remote Sensing (ACRES), Geoscience Australia. © CNES 2002.
For details see:

ModisLand Rapid Response System

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Fig.4. This image was acquired by theModerate-resolution Imaging
Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 8 January 2002 and shows
fires burning in the Northwest of Australia. For details see:
and image search support at:
(For earlier satellite images: see Australia fire updates off 30
December 2001 – 7 February 2002)

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.Satellite image, 7 January 2002.
This GMS Channel 1 image shows smoke plumes (indicated by the yellow arrows) over
the Tasman Sea from fires burning south of Sydney, Australia. On Monday, 1400
people were evacuated from South Coast towns according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
(Source: OSEI/NOAA)

CSA RADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch 

CSA RADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch offers the following scenes covering the Australia fires:

  •  02 Jan 02 08:36:29 UTC; S1; cycle 93 orbit 184.89987 duration 0.00900; OBR -GSS orbit 186.3128)

  •  03 Jan 02 19:21:21 UTC; S2; cycle 93 orbit 205.59160 duration 0.00900; OBR -GSS orbit 207.0713)

  •  05 Jan 02 08:48:54 UTC; F3N-16; cycle 93 orbit 227.89808 duration 0.00910; OBR -GSS orbit 229.3107)

  •  07 Jan 02 19:04:47 UTC; F4; cycle 93 orbit 262.59390 duration 0.00883; OBR -GSS orbit 264.00652)

For more information see:

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:

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
Source: The Sun-Herald/The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 January 2002.

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It only takes a spark … A firefighter lights a backburn near the small town of Bilpin as cooler than predicted weather conditions enabled fire crews to put in containment lines around some of the 80 fires burning. Photo: William West/AFP.

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Nothing left … Dai Rimmer surveys the ruins of her home in Paterson Rd, Springwood. Photo: Rick Stevens.
For a detailed story (“Dear arsonist, wish you were here to see my pain” – by Dai Rimmer) see:

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Scramble … A fireman escapes a backburn fire along the Great Western highway in Lawson which rapidly escalated. Photo: Sean Davey.

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Smoke on the water … John Patterson from Mollymook Surf Life Saving Club jumps from the boat followed by Bruce O’Sullivan to put out fires on the shores of Lake Berringer, south of Bendalong. Photo: Paul Harris.

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Battling on … Yellow Rock residents fight flames before the brigades can respond. Photo: Nick Moir.

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Hear our prayer … The Lawson Metro Brigade wait behind a sign made by residents. Photo: Sean Davey.

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Backburning … As backburning operations continue along the edge of the Great Western Highway between Lawson and Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains, Steven Barratt from Katoomba forces his way through thick smoke to contain a fire. Photo: Sean Davey.

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Containment … Firefighters back burn from the Great Western Highway near Lawson. Photo: Rick Stevens.

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