GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

28 December 2001

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.

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Fire Detection Map for Australia for 28 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 28 December 2001 shows 8 controlled fires. The locations of these fires are displayed in the statewide fire situation map below.

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Fig.1. Statewide Fire Situation Map of Victoria, 28 December 2001
(for legend of symbols see: National Resources and Environment)

Nasa´s Earthobservatory

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This image of  “Severe Brush Fires Near Sydney, Australia ”  was acquired by
Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on 25 December 2001.
For details see:
Source: Nasa´s Earthobservatory
(Image courtesy Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land
Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC )

Smoke from fires near Sydney taken by the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor
(SeaWiFS) on 27 December  2001.
For details see:
Source: Nasa´s Earthobservatory
(Image courtesy the SeaWiFS Project,
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, and ORBIMAGE)

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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NESDIS/OSEI NOAA-12 POES AVHRR LAC satellite image, 27 December 2001.
Smoke (indicated by the yellow arrow) is visible over southeastern Australia from
uncontrolled fires burning in the suburbs of Sydney, Australia. Winds of up to 55 mph and
temperatures of 95 degrees have contributed to the intensity of the blazes which have
destroyed homes and forced evacuations.
(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 Barkly and

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.

As the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) will be closed between 29 December and 1 January, please find latest news on bushfires in Australia on the following website:
New South Wales Rural Fire Service:

The Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) has offered assistance to liaise Australian fire authorities with Global Emergency Response. Global Emergency Response 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. At this stage (afternoon of 27 December, local time) the indications are that NSW is unlikely to utilise this resource.
For more information on Global Emergency Response see
and click on Global Emergency Response.
At 12:00 GMT the GFMC received a message from Russia indicating that the Russian Government through the embassies in Canberra and Moscow have offered support by the Ministry for Emergency Situations (EMERCOM)  to rpovide services of the IL-76. Further negotiations between the countries are expected.

News from Global Emergency Response
Posted: Fri, 28 Dec 2001 17:07 AEDT

Row over offer of international help to fight NSW bushfires The Fire Brigade Employees Union is urging the New South Wales Government to lease special super scooper aircraft from Canada to help fight the bushfires across the state, as most of them burn out of control.
The union’s Chris Read says the Canadian planes are specially designed to knock down the type of bushfire fronts ravaging the state and could be available within 24 hours.
“If the Government moved quickly enough, these planes are sitting in Canada at the moment, there’s over 30 of them sitting there, it’s in the middle of a northern winter in fact it’s snowing,” Mr Read said.
But a Canadian company said Australian authorities had turned down its offer to supply the firefighting aircraft.
Global Emergency Response spokesman John Anderson in Calgary, told ABC radio their long range Russian Ilyushin 76 fire bomber could douse an area measuring 1.1 kilometres by 80 metres in more than 40,000 litres of water in seven or eight seconds.
“This is the largest firefighting aircraft in the world by a long shot,” he said.
“It is a strategic weapon against fire, there are no strategic weapons against fire in Australia,” Mr Anderson said.
“There are no large firefighting aircraft in Australia.”
Mr Anderson denied suggestions the aircraft was better suited for use on European conifer forests than on Australian eucalypt forests.
The Ilyushin is about the size of a Boeing 757 and would require a 1,500 metre airstrip.

Goverment turns down offer A spokesman for New South Wales Emergency Services Minister Bob Debus said the Ilyushin aircraft had been trialled after the 1994 Sydney bushfires but it had been found unsuitable for Australian conditions.
Mr Debus said Australia already used a flexible approach to fighting fires and employed some 50 different types of aircraft including helicopters, which can scoop water from swimming pools.

The Rural Fire Service’s John Winter has also dismissed claims that the aircraft should be used to combat fire fronts across the state.
Mr Winter said the Canadian fire bombers are not suitable to the Australian environment.
“The majority of the lake systems we have are not suitable.
“Warragamba is one of the few that would be appropriate but the accessibility of that to the aircraft is quite limited, when you consider the other fires, Warragamba is one of the few open lakes,” Mr Winter said.
“The reality is in Australia the use of helicopter water bombers that can fill from swimming pools and small dams, allows a much quicker turnaround time.”

Cost The aircraft and crew for the aircraft would have to be chartered from Russia and would take 48 hours to respond. The charter rate is $US9,000 an hour plus the cost of fuel, accommodation and other costs for the eight-member Russian crew. Mr Anderson said the rate was not unreasonable considering the risks involved. US donation

The United States has donated $A50,000 to the New South Wales bushfire relief fund. Charge d’Affaires at the US embassy Michael Owens says American firefighters will also be available to help if the request is made.
“It just reflects the fact that it was just this year that we celebrated the 50th year of the Anzus alliance,” Mr Owens said.
“Australian forces are with us in Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and we come together when our values and our families are at risk.”

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

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