GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

20 January 2003

Latest satellite images fromAustralia:

Pixel Size 1 km Pixel Size 250m

BushfiresRaging in Southeast Australia

This true-color ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image, captured by the Aqua satellite on 19 January  2003, shows the fires in southeastern Australia marked with red dots. Smoke is drifting south east. On the western side of the fires, what look like long straight lines of smoke (see high-resolution image) may be contrails from reconnaissance aircraft or water tankers.

This false-color map of theworld  shows an aerosol index produced from data collected by the Total ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on18  January 2003.The large cluster of fires in Australia 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: Total ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS)

Fire Weather Forecast for the Pacific Region

click here to enlarge (21 KB)

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

A.C.T.Latest News

Total Fire Ban for A.C.T. 

The Bureau of Meteorology have issued aBushfire Weather Warning for the ACT that indicates hot and windy conditions,which place the bushfire danger indices in the Very High to Extreme ratings. Asa result the Chief Fire Control Officer, under section 7A of the Bushfire Act1936 has declared a Total Fire Ban for the ACT.

The Ban will apply for the next 5 dayscommencing at 0000 hours (Midnight) to night and continue to be in force for thewhole of the period to midnight next Tuesday:


A further notice will be issued if itis necessary to extend or cancel the Total Fire Ban.

As a result of the total fire bandeclaration the only fire allowed in the open air throughout the Territoryduring this time are those listed below as being a prescribed class of fireunder the Bushfire Act 1936, Regulations.

Exempt fires are:

  • Fires used inside a factory, as defined under the Bushfire Act, for manufacturing purposes;
  • Fires necessary for the maintenance or repair of essential services such as: light, power, water, sewerage, transport or communication, subject to the approval of the Chief Fire Control Officer; and
  • Gas or electric heating appliances (ie. gas or electric barbecues OK, no wood, charcoal, or spirit burning appliances) provided these appliances are under constant adult supervision, with all flammable material cleared in all directions for 3 metres, and within reach of an adequate and continuous supply of water that can be applied to the appliance and its surrounds.

Follow-up media contact: EmergencyServices Bureau 6207 8564; or 6207 8458

HightenedAlert, Tuesday 21 January 2003, 12:00 a.m.

Residentsin the NW of Canberra are being placed on high alert for the approach ofbushfire on Tuesday 21 January 2003. See ACT Bushfire Status at:

OtherUpdate on bushfires and urban fires in A.C.T.

Canberraresidents told: prepare or get out

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 0:44 AEDT

Upgradedfire warnings have been issued for residents across Canberra’s north. Thewarning comes after bushfires on Saturday destroyed more than 400 homes. Allresidents in Belconnen, Hall and Gungahlin are being asked to consider fireprecautions around their homes. The fear is that a New South Wales fire couldmove towards suburbs in north and north-west Canberra if the winds pick up.Residents in the suburbs of Cook, Weetangera, Hawker, Higgins, Holt, McGregor,Dunlop, Charnwood, Fraser, Spence, Evatt, McKellar and in the Wallaroo Road areahave been placed on high alert. Mike Castle, from emergency services, saysresidents need to stay calm and take precautions. “We want them to actuallytake these measures that we are proposing but if they are not confident theyshould actually relocate,” Mr Castle said. A north-west wind change hasbeen forecast for today with gusts of up to 60 kilometres an hour.

Canberraalert renewed as strong winds loom

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 22:01 AEDT

Predictedstrong winds have placed a dozen Canberra suburbs back on high fire alert. Thereis now concern for all the suburbs in the north-west area of Belconnen in thenation’s capital. Firefighters are concerned about winds that are expected topick up by mid-morning and further intensify by mid-afternoon tomorrow. The NewSouth Wales Rural Fire Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, says it is a serioussituation and residents should take all fire precautions. “To carry out thenormal housekeeping rules, to remove combustable material from around the houseto try and decrease the number of sparks,” Commissioner Koperberg said.”They have to stay at home if it is possible to do so or alternatively ifthey don’t want to stay home to vacate well before the fire isapproaching.” Cook, Weetangera, Hawker, Higgins, Holt, MacGregor, Dunlop,Charnwood, Fraser, Spene, Evatt and McKellar and residents in the Wallaroo Roadarea should be on high alert.

Canberrasuburbs on high alert

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 19:03 AEDT

Fireauthorities have placed Canberra’s north-western suburbs on high alert, withwinds up to 65 kilometres an hour predicted for tomorrow. In an upgradedwarning, they say the bad weather is expected to peak around 3:00pm AEDTtomorrow. The remnants of the MacIntyres fire, simmering for several weeks, areexpected to be fuelled by the strong winds. New South Wales Rural FireCommissioner Phil Koperburg says residents are advised to prepare the homesappropriately. “I think we have to be very mindful that the people livingon the interface in the northern and western or north-western parts of Canberramay well come under some threat from fire, if not from fire certainly from smokeand ember inundation,” he said. The weather bureau’s Murray Keable say thesmoke haze covering the ACT is unlikely to lift until tomorrow. He says weatherconditions will worsen as the week proceeds. “The situation towards nextweekend looks like really warming up again,” he said. “We areexpecting hot conditions and north to north-west winds on Saturday, and possiblySunday too with increased fire dangers.”

ACTfire protection measures strengthened

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 17:04 AEDT

Firefighters are strengthening protection measures around Canberra’s north-westernsuburbs. There is currently no immediate threat to property. Hazard reductionwork is still being carried out in suburbs such as Belconnon to provideprotection from fires still burning outside the ACT. The head of BushfireServices Peter Lucus-Smith says risks still exist. “We still have firesburning to out north-west and in NSW…we’ve got fires still burning in theACT… to the southern part of the ACT,” he said. Meantime police areoptimistic that the death toll from the fires will not rise beyond four. Two menand a women from the south-western suburb of Duffy died in or near their homeswhile an elderly women died at the Mt Stromlo forestry settlement.

SomeACT suburbs still without power after fires

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 15:19 AEDT

Around 5per cent of Canberra remains without power this afternoon, including parts ofRivett, Fisher, Lyons, Chifley, Pearce and many rural areas. Gas supplies remainturned off in all suburbs of Western Creek, but ActewAGL expects to restore theservice to around 6,000 homes in the area by the end of the week. The LowerMolonglo sewage treatment centre is now fully operational and all sewage isbeing treated. While residents at Chapman are still advised to to boil theirdrinking water or use bottled water.

ACTpolice ‘hopeful’, but death toll may rise

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 15:06 AEDT

Canberrapolice have not ruled out finding more dead after the weekend bushfires, butthey say they are optimistic the death toll will not rise further. Four peoplehave been confirmed dead after the firestorm hit Canberra on Saturday afternoondestroying 402 homes. Territory controller and chief police officer John Murraysaid each damaged home is being checked. “I don’t expect there to be moredeaths, but if you look at the scene and the ferocity of the fire and the emberslying in each house… it is hard to go through with exactness to make thatdetermination,” he said. Four individual coronial inquiries will be heldinto the deaths.

Homesdestroyed in ACT fires continues to climb

Posted:Mon, 20 Jan 2003 14:28 AEDT

Thenumber of homes destroyed in the ACT fires has risen to more than 400. Policehave now confirmed 402 homes have been destroyed as a result of the fires whichripped through the ACT on Saturday night. More than half are in Duffy inCanberra’s south-west, the remaining ones are from the neighbouring suburbs ofChapman, Kambah, Holder and Rivett. Many more homes are partly damaged andassessments are being made. Meanwhile, the ACT’s chief fire controller, PeterLucas-Smith, says criticism of firefighting efforts is unwarranted. The ACTChief Minister, Jon Stanhope, has not ruled out holding a Government inquiryinto the criticism, separate to the coronial inquests into the four people whohave died from the fires.

 Source: ABC News

New South Wales:

 Statewide Total Fire Ban for  Monday, 20 January 2003

The Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a Total Fire Ban in the following Weather Forecast Districts:
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, Sunday, January 19, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Monday, 20 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

Statewide Update for Monday, 20 January 2003
Over 1500 firefighters are expected towork across firegrounds in NSW and the ACT today. Weather conditions areexpected to deteriorate throughout the day, with west northwesterly windsbetween 20-25 kph and temperatures in the 30s predicted.
Total fire bans apply to all of NSW and the ACT and the public are asked to beparticularly careful due to extreme fire danger weather.
About 250 RFS volunteer firefighters from around NSW continue to assist ACTemergency services today.

Yarrowlumla/Queanbeyan /ACT
The fireground covers nearly 200,000ha in NSW and the ACT from Doctors Flat inthe north to Michelago, about 75km south.
Crews successfully held the fire to the western side of the Monaro Highwayovernight and continue to conduct defensive firefighting at Doctors Flatdivision.
No property is under immediate threat, however, firefighters are concerned aboutpredicted weather changes that could increase fire activity.
Firefighters, police and SES personnel have advised communities fromWilliamsdale to Colinton to be aware of fire in the general area and to takenormal precautions, such as clearing leaf litter from gutters and combustiblematerial away from homes.
Crews will undertake containment, mop up and property protection workparticularly to the west of the Monaro Highway, in the Brindabella Valley andthe Fairlight area.
NSW crews within the ACT will assist with mopping up and patrolling operationsunder the direction of ACT Emergency Services Bureau.

Kosciuszko National Park
There are numerous active fires across Kosciuszko region and fire activity isexpected to increase throughout the day under the influence of stronger windsand higher temperatures.
As weather conditions worsen today, extreme fire behaviour is predicted with ageneral movement of fire and smoke in a south eastern direction, associated spotfires can occur many kilometres down wind.

Kariong – Mt White
Backburning along the Old Pacific Highway from Calga to Mt White was successfullast night. These operations will continue today, with a 15km burn planned fromWoy Woy Rd to the F3 and Mullet Ck.
Motorists will notice backburning and firefighting activity and smoke couldaffect the F3.
There are no properties under direct threat. The fire is currently active aroundthe Kariong Rifle Range and crews are tasked with looking after property in thatarea.
Fires in the Wyong Rural Fire District are at patrol status and are not causingconcerns for firefighters.

Local crews contained a fire 1.5km southeast of Gunnedah by nightfall yesterday.
About 15 properties on the outskirts of Gunnedah were threatened by the fire,which was running in steep country. Six homes required property protection andno damage to structures or stock was reported.
There is no threat to property today as the fire is well contained. Firefighterswill continue mopping up today.

For more information (Please note this is for MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY):
Media Only (02) 98981855

Source: NSW Rural FireService

FireSituation in Victoria:

Total FireBan for Victoria, 20 January 2003

Today 20 January 2003 hasbeen declared a day of Total Fire Ban for the whole of the state of Victoria.
No fires may lit or be allowed to remain alight in any part of Victoria untilmidnight tonight 20 January 2003.
People living in bushfire risk areas are advised to implement their bushfireprotection plans.

VictoriaGeneral Fires Update 20 January 2003,  1.30pm

CFA and Department ofSustainability and Environment (DSE) continue to manage a large number of firesin North Eastern Victoria.

Ovens Area

The Bogongfires are not yet under control and now cover over 24000 hectares in total.Buffalo Fire is not yet under control andnow covers 17388 hectares

UpperMurray Area
Pinnabar fire has burnt 20000 hectares and is not yet under control. MysteryLane fire has burnt 220 hectares and is not yet under control

Much of Victoria is covered in smoke which has drifted across from these fires.Residents in North East Victoria areadvised to stay alert, and watch for falling embers on or near their property.Water pressure in the area may be low – residents are advised to fill buckets,sinks and baths in advance to have a ready supply of water on hand. If defendingproperty, protect yourself from radiant heat by wearing a long sleeved shirt,long pants, sturdy boots and a broad brimmed hat. Furtherinformation can be found via the following resources:

Listen to ABC radio on:
Wodonga 106.5, Bright 89.7, Corryong 99.7, and Goulburn Valley 97.7

Victoria Police (road closures) 1800 444 343
Parks Victoria 13 19 63
CFA 13 15 99

Department of Sustainability and Environment
Community Updates on the DS&E website are alsoavailable

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

Fire Situation in Tasmania:

Total Fire Ban for  Monday 20 January 2003.

The Tasmania Fire Service has declared a day of Total Fire Ban tomorrow (Monday 20th January 2003) for the whole of the state commencing at midnight tonight.
The weather predicted is such that any fires occurring will be difficult if not impossible to control.
Mr Gledhill has appealed to the community to abide by the conditions of the Total Fire Ban as the state can ill afford to see fires of the magnitude that have recently occurred in New South Wales, Victoria and ACT.

SituationReports from Monday 20  January 2003.

Bluff RD, Broadmarsh

07:01:11 PM 20 January, 2003

A number of homes downwind are exposed.Fire is spotting and behaving erratically.The TFS is responding with additionalresources.The fire has now burnt close to 1000 hasince it started. The front is 5 km long and spotting 400m. Four homes have been saved, with afront of 800m. Currently burning in pines on Grahams Rd, Broadmarsh.

Hilton RD, Austins Ferry- Situationupdate

06:27:15 PM 20 January, 2003

Fire crews are backburning off thesouth western side of the hill. Temperatures have dropped.

Twelve Trees Range,Strathgordon-situation report

06:06:23 PM 20 January, 2003

Strong winds have caused a fire in theSouthwest to spot outside its containment lines. Parks and Wildlife Service IncidentController Mark Bryce said the fire which was being mopped up after burningabout 1000 hectares in the Twelve Trees Range near Strathgordon, was fanned upagain by strong winds yesterday afternoon. “The fire was being mopped up andwas within containment lines but the strong winds have caused the fire to flareup in several locations,” he said. “We had crews on the groundworking to contain one of those areas within minutes of the spot-over on thewestern shore of Holly Basin but because of the adverse weather conditionsfanning the flames we had to get those crews out very quickly,” he said.”In other areas however the firedoes not appear to have moved outside the containment lines we have establishedat this stage.” Mr Bryce said they are currentlyattempting to monitor the fire where it had broken outside containment lines butefforts were being hampered by thick smoke and the weather conditions. “At this stage, the weather ismaking it too dangerous for a direct attack on it but with conditions forecastto improve we are planning to map the fire perimeter to assess the possibilityof a direct attack on the fire tomorrow when conditions are expected toease.”

Garths Rd, Cradoc- Situation Report

05:37:22 PM 20 January, 2003

We have a bulldozer moving towards thefire and will track around the edges, along a number of old bush tracks. The fire is currently burning in agully and movement is fairly minimal at this stage.

Connors RD, Cygnet-Situation update

05:31:33 PM 20 January, 2003

Currently blacking out the bush area -have blacked out all grass edges. Approximately 10ha have been burnt.

Hilton RD, Austins Ferry- SituationReport

05:23:29 PM 20 January, 2003

We have a vegetation fire burningbehind the mill at Topline Timbers in Austins Ferry. Crews are attending.

Flinders Island Fire Situation Update 

19 January 2003
Fire activity overnight was relatively calm and remains so this morning.
Continual patrolling of the containment lines remains ongoing. Multiple flare-ups inside the containment lines have typically been occurring during the afternoons.
This is expected to occur again today particularly on the northern boundary of the fire. A predicted late northerly change may put pressure on the southern boundary later this evening.
Remote area crews will be flown in today to extinguish fire in inaccessible ground over the Darling Mountain Range. Sixteen fresh fire-fighters will be landing on the island today.
Blacking out hot spots will continue (yesterday crews in the northern sector controlled and extinguished in excess of 100 spot fires) and large unburned sections will be back- burned ahead of predicted warmer weather on Monday.Bulldozers are being used in areas where peat fires have become difficult to extinguish.

Source: Tasmania Fire Service (TFS)

To check the current weather situation,follow this link to the Bureau of Meteorology weather forecast for Tasmania

Actual Fire Situation Maps, Tasmania

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

Australia´s fire seasons

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