The NSW fire war has been hailed as the biggest logistical operation of its kind in the state’s history, with anextraordinary commitment of personnel and equipment in 21 days of crisis. As the battle showed signs of easing, the full extent of theresources devoted to the fire fight began to emerge. For example, in the Blue Mountains, up to 860 firefightersand 130 tankers were deployed on the heaviest days, clocking up 140,000 hours and using 30 million litres ofwater. In the Canobolas area, 700 firefighters and 50 tankers were used. A Rural Fire Service spokesman, John Winter, described the firefighting effort as the biggest operationin the history of NSW, and possibly Australia. “The sheer number of resources in terms of direct firefighting vehicles and the ongoing commitment offire crews is the largest we’ve ever done,” he said. “The deployment of firefighting aircraft was well in excess of anything we’ve ever done, with 75 aircraftat the peak.” He said there were 10,000 firefighters on duty at any one time, which meant 20,000 committed over a24-hour period. “I wouldn’t think there has been a larger commitment anywhere in terms of firefighting resources,” hesaid. As well as interstate and New Zealand reinforcements, firefighters came from other parts of NSW,including teams from Wellington, West Wyalong and tiny Mogriguy, outside Dubbo. On the Central Coast, 350 firefighters had help from Lake Macquarie and Dungog, and used 70tankers. The Hawkesbury region had 500 firefighters and 49 tankers. In the Eurobodalla area of the far South Coast, the Canberra Raiders rugby league club shoutedfirefighters a night out last week at the Adelaide Hotel in Moruya, in recognition of 150 firefighters andtheir logistical supporters. In that battle against a fire that has already burnt 35,000 hectares, firefighters used eight helicopters,nine bulldozers and 50 tankers. Sutherland has had up to 800 firefighters out each day, using a total of 48 tankers, including 20 fromVictoria, two fireboats and 30 NSW Fire Brigade pumpers. In the Wollondilly-Campbell town area, a team of 350 firefighters was reinforced by Tasmanian andWest Australian firefighters, and 40 tankers were used. A total of 800 firefighters, including personnel from the Northern Territory, Western Australia,Tasmania and Victoria, were deployed through the Wollongong, Kiama and Shellharbour regions.They used 150 tankers, including 40 from Victoria. In the Shoalhaven area late last week, 541 firefighters were in the field, supported by 66 in the controlcentre. Hardware deployed included 20 tankers, two bulldozers, a tractor, four boats, three ambulances andeight four-wheel drive vehicles. Meanwhile, it has emerged that wildlife may not have been as badly affected by the fires as firstfeared. The animal welfare organisation WIRES has been unable to gain access to most bushfire areas. Butin parts of the Blue Mountains, the organisation found no evidence of wildlife caught in the fires.WIRES chief executive, Carol MacDougall, said the organisation would do a survey to gauge the fullimpact.
Firefighters battling blazes on the far north coast were helped by easing weather conditionsyesterday, following extreme temperatures on Saturday. A total fire ban in place across most of the state since the bushfire crisis began was due to be liftedat midnight last night. Yesterday, fires temporarily shut the Pacific Highway near Grafton and forced the evacuation of about40 residents. Firebreaks were being established south of New Italy, where winds dropped and temperatures fell to33C. Backburning also took place west of Coffs Harbour last night. The Rural Fire Service believes both blazes were deliberately started on Saturday.The New Italy fire ripped through 8000 hectares of bushland while 40 residents from Lowanna, west ofCoffs Harbour, were evacuated on Saturday. They were allowed to return yesterday morning.No residential properties were destroyed, but a saw mill and a shed were lost. A Rural Fire Service spokesman, Cameron Wade, said the bushfire crisis was gradually being broughtunder control.
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 14 January 2002 shows 23 controlled fires. The locations of these fires are displayed in the statewide fire situation map below.
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.
Fig.4. These image was acquired by the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 12 January 2002 and shows fires burning in New South Wales. For details see: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/products_rr.html and image search support at: http://www.uni-freiburg.de/fireglobe/current/MODIS.htm (For earlier satellite images: see Australia fire updates of 30 December 2001 – 11 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):
Fig. 5.Satellite image, 11 January 2002. Heat signatures (red) and smoke plumes (off white) are visible extending out over the Tasman Sea from fires burning around Sydney, Australia. (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 North of Elliott. Western Australia CENTRAL WEST High LOWER WEST High CENTRAL WHEATBELT High GREAT SOUTHERN High SOUTHWEST High SOUTH COASTAL High TOWN OF PORT HEDLAND High SHIRE OF ROEBOURNE High SHIRE OF ASHBURTON High SHIRE OF EAST PILBARA High KIMBERLEY High
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 http://www.uni-freiburg.de/fireglobe/emergency/contacts.htm and click on Global Emergency Response.