GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

17 January 2003

Australia´s fire seasons


Actual Fire Situation Maps,Victoria
An actual fire situation map can be found directly at: 

Fire Weather Forecast for the Pacific Region

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Fire Weather Index for the 
Pacific Region for tomorrow.
(Source: ECPCFire Weather Index Forecast)


BushfiresRaging in Southeast Australia

Heat signatures (red) and a smoke plume (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning in Kosciusko National Park in New South Whales and in parts of Victoria, AustraliaAustralia in this ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from the Aqua satellite./14 January 2003/
Right: Fires continue to burn out of control in southern New South Wales, Australia on January 16, 2003. This true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image was acquired by the Aqua satellite and shows active fires marked with red dots. The fires are producing a lot of smoke, which is blowing southeast in this image. 


Large fires burning out of control in the Great Dividing Range Mountains in southeast Australia are producing a thick cloud of aerosols over the area. This false-color map of Australia shows an aerosol index produced from data collected by the Total ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on January 12, 2003. The index shows how much light was absorbed by aerosols in a column of air between the instrument and the ground. A value of 1 indicates aerosols were reducing the light reaching the ground by about one-thrid, while a value of 3 indicates aerosol so dense that the light was reduced by about 95 percent.

The large cluster of fires in southern New South Wales is easily identified by the large area of red. The aerosol plume clearly affects a larger area than it seems to in true-color imagery. This is because the TOMS aerosol index uses observations collected in the ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum. Aerosols that appear transparent in true-color imagery can be revealed by UV analysis. The principle is similar to certain “invisible” magic markers that produce writing that can only be seen under special UV (“black”) lights. 

Source: NASAEarthObservatory

Fire Situation in Tasmania


Patrolling will continue and unburnt patches inside the fire edge may be backburned today if the weather permits. Mopping up on the eastern boundary is now well advanced.

Today’s operational efforts will be concentrated on the section of fire in the Pickford Hill and Haulands area, where heavy machinery will be used to remove vegetation along approximately 12km of the fire edge.


While the fire still remains contained at this stage, numerous flare-ups have occurred within the containment lines in unburnt vegetation and are being dealt with in order to prevent any further outbreaks.

Palana Road has been temporarily closed as thick smoke is making conditions dangerous for vehicle traffic.

A new incident control team has arrived this afternoon to relieve the current team who have been on duty for the past 5 days.


The fire which started 8 days ago in the Mt Levonthorpe area of the Darling Ranges has now burnt out an area of 17,040 hectares with a fire edge of 107kms.

Yesterday’s construction of mineral earth breaks and backburning operations combined with mop up and patrolling carried out overnight has contained the fire.

Cloudy cool conditions and the possibility of drizzle this afternoon will assist fire crews in extinguishing hot spots and identifying any unburnt patches within the containment lines which could potentially lead to escapes if the wind and temperature were to increase.

Source: Tasmania Fire Service (TFS)

Fire Situation in NSW 

Statewide Total Fire Ban 18 January 2003

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, Friday, January 17, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Saturday, 18 January 2003.
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.
A map identifying the boundaries of weather districts can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology web site at Members of the public can phone 1 800 654 443 or their local NSW Rural Fire Service Fire Control Centre for more information.
The Rural Fires Act 1997 – Section 99 (2) states: “As soon as practicable after making a direction under this section, the Minister is … (a) to cause notice of the direction to be broadcast by a television or radio station transmitting to the part or parts of the State concerned and in a newspaper circulating in those parts”

Wind shifts pressure containment lines on ACT/NSW border fires
Friday, 17 January 2003 – Friday , 17 January 2003 1200

NSW firefighters from the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are working on control lines for three fires on the western ACT / NSW border, specifically in the Brindabella and Namadji National Parks and Bimberi Nature Reserve.

Containment strategies are progressing according to plans on the fires, which were caused by lightning strikes on Wednesday 8 January 2003.These control lines will be tested today with the weather forecast showing strong north westerly winds, 37 degree temperatures and very low humidity.

The wind shift will place considerable pressure on the eastern and southern containment lines and could potentially turn fires back towards the east, however the potential threat to properties in the Brindabella Valley has eased a little for the moment.

Eleven aircraft are working across the Yarrowlumla Rural Fire District on these fires. This includes four medium and seven light helicopters, one firespotter and one Air Crane.

Containment lines on McIntyres Hut fire will be tested – Brindabella National ParkContainment lines are complete on this fire, however, they will be tested today.There is currently no immediate threat to any property. Firefighters are concerned that strong wind gusts could cause spot overs which could impact major pine plantations in the ACT.

The fire has burned over 7000ha and is being fought by about 120 NSW firefighters from Yarrowlumla, Queanbeyan and Yass Rural Fire Districts, crews from the greater Sydney area and NPWS firefighters.

Containment lines will continue to be patrolled. Ground and air patrols will continue to be conducted as active fire remains along the Goodrabigbee River.Aerial incendiary drops are being considered today depending on weather conditions.NSW RFS assisting ACT crews at Stockyard Fire in the Namadji National Park

Two hundred RFS firefighters with 20 fire trucks are assisting local ACT crews with major backburning operations on this fire which has burned over 4000ha.Close communication between ACT and NSW fire authorities is occurring through liaison officers and daily joint planning meetings.

Firefighters were relocated this morning as weather conditions are expected to deteriorate earlier than predicted.Strong winds will pressure containment lines and crews have been moved back to secondary containment lines in consideration of safety.

The south eastern corner of this fire is the main concern. Although the fire is remote it is impacting on the water catchment area. No properties are immediately threatened at this time.Threat from the Stockyard and Bendora fires to the Brindabella Valley will ease slightly due to the wind shift to the northwest, however, the southern and eastern containment lines will be tested today.

Kosciuszko National Park Fire Facts Summary
Friday, 17 January 2003 Thursday January 16, 2003, 2100 hours

Yarrangobilly fire jumps containment line:

Warmer weather this afternoon added to the intensity of fires burning throughout Kosciuszko National Park. Flying embers caused spot fires on the other side of the Tumut River, which was the southern containment line of the Yarrangobilly fire. This fire is now expected to travel south along the Tumut River Valley. Backburning is planned tonight around Cabramurra and on sections of the Elliott Way and Boundary Road.

Lake Eucumbene area:

Fire burning west of Lake Eucumbene is still burning within containment lines. Backburning is planned for tonight along Tolbar Road, the western containment line.

Weather a continuing concern

The 14 fires, combined with backburning and aerial incendiary bombing have now burnt about 65,000 hectares of Kosciuszko National Park. The changeable weather remains a concern with warmer termperatures, gusting westerly winds and possible thunderstorms forecast on Saturday. Fire fighters are on the alert for spot fires breaching containment lines.

Property owners and householders in close proximity to the fires are advised to take commonsense precautions around their houses, such as clearing flammable material from their grounds and roofs, blocking drainpipes, filling gutters with water and ensuring hoses or other water sources are ready for use.

Fires being controlled (containment lines still being established)

  • Yarrangobilly,Yarrangobilly-Cabramurra area, Being controlled, 33,600 hectares 

  • Table Top, South-east of Kiandra, Being controlled, 1,750 hectares

  • Broken Cart, Extreme north of park, Being controlled, 780 hectares

  • Tooma Dam, South of Tooma Reservoir, Being controlled, 9,000 hectares

  • Scammels Ridge, South-east of Khancoban, Being controlled, 8,300 hectares

  • Youngal, South of Khancoban, Being controlled, 4,400 hectares

  • Windy Creek, Geehi Reservoir, Being controlled, 420 hectares

  • Hannels Spur, West of Main Range, Being controlled, 1000 hectares


Contained fires (burning within containment lines that are secure under current conditions)

  • Nungar, Tantangara Reservoir, Contained,1,370 hectares

  • Reedy Creek, West of Cabramurra, Contained, 260 hectares

  • Mt Morgan, East of Tantangara Reservoir,Contained, 400 hectares

  • Tumut Ponds, South-east of Cabramurra, Contained, 30 hectares

  • Yellow Bog, South-west of Cabramurra, Contained, 650 hectares

  • Slaughterhouse, Byadbo Wilderness, south-eastof Thredbo (started by an earlier storm in December), Contained, 28,500 hectares

No active fire

  • Cascade, South-east of Thredbo, Out

  • Mount Foxlow, North of Yarrangobilly, Out

  • Four Mile, South of Kiandra, No active fire

  • Nine Mile, South of Kiandra, No active fire

Outside the park

Firefighters are also keeping a close watch on nearby fires in southern NSW and interstate.Several fires burning in national parks to the north-east, both in NSW and the ACT, are blowing smoke into Kosciuszko National Park. Intensive backburning continued today near the Murray River to consolidate firebreaks aimed at keeping fires in NSW and Victoria from spreading south.

Weather forecast

Continuing warm. Thunderstorms did not eventuate this afternoon. Tomorrow, slightly warmer temperatures with light-moderate winds varying with strong gusts from east to west/north-west. On Saturday higher temperatures and westerlies are expected, along with possible showers/thunderstorms. Cooler conditions and easterly winds may return on Sunday with hot westerlies resuming on Monday.

Source: NSW Rural FireService 

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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