GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

21 January 2003

Latest satellite images fromAustralia:

Bushfires Raging in Southeast Australia:

In southeastern Australia, bushfires are raging out of control. At the border ofsoutheast New South Wales and northeast Victoria in the Great Dividing RangeMountains, dozens of out-of-control fires have destroyed at least 400 homes andkilled four people according to local news reports from Tuesday, 21 January 2003. The fires are approaching Australia’s capital city of Canberrain the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and residents have been urged to takeimmediate fire precautions.

Among the devastating losses, more than two dozen farms have been destroyedand hundreds of livestock have perished. Many farmers are being forced torapidly sell remaining livestock as the fires have destroyed all availablepasture.

This true-color ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from the Terra satelliteon 19 January  2003, shows the numerous bushfires marked with red dots, aswell as the thick, choking smoke. The ACT is almost completely shrouded in smokefrom the densest concentrations of fires (left of center). Fires are alsoburning northwest of Sydney (top center). Conditions are expected to worsen asthe week progresses, with high temperatures and winds up to 65 knots (71 milesper hour) whipping the blazes further out of control. More than 900 firefightersare battling the fires, and more continue to pour in from surroundingterritories to lend a hand.

Source: NASA/ EO

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.

Source: NASA/ EO

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

Windspicking up in ACT fires

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 16:40 AEDT

Winds inthe Snowy Mountains are picking up and fire authorities are urging people innorth-west Canberra to look out for possible spot fires. Residents in much ofCanberra’s north-west, including all of the Belconnen and Gungahlin areas, havebeen on alert for around 24 hours. Some inner-northern suburbs were added to thealert list earlier today. Conditions during the early part of the afternoon werebetter than expected but now the forecast 60 kilometres per hour winds aremoving in. New South Wales Rural Fire Service spokesman John Winter says that isconcerning. The two fires of most concern to the north-west are still somekilometres away, but smoke from those fires has been increasing the haze overthe capital. People are being urged not to panic as the worsening conditionswere expected.

Noimmediate fire threat: ACT authorities

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 14:40 AEDT

Fireauthorities in Canberra say there is no immediate threat to residents in thecity’s north-west. All eyes are on the weather. With a fire burning aroundeight-to-10 kilometres to Canberra’s north-west, authorities say the weatherwill determine the severity of the threat. The temperature has risen to themid-30s and the Weather Bureau says while winds are expected to pick up thisafternoon, the smoke haze blanketing the city is keeping both the temperatureand the wind speed down. Both the bureau and New South Wales fire authoritiesare seeking to calm nerves, telling residents there is no way the conditionswhich produced Saturday’s firestorm will be reproduced today. A large part ofCanberra’s suburban and rural north including all of Belconnen and Gungahlinremains on alert and residents are being asked to take precautionary measures.Authorities say new inner-northern suburbs, Watson, Downer, Kaleen, Mitchellwhich have been added to the alert list are on a lower level of alert to theirwestern neighbours.

Canberrahospitals remain on fire alert

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 14:38 AEDT

Canberra’stwo public hospitals are on standby to treat more fire-related injuries. SinceSaturday more than 350 people have been treated for smoke inhalation, burns andbroken bones from people falling off roofs. Canberra Hospital’s deputy generalmanager of clinical services Wayne Ramsey says a review of Saturday’s crisis hasbeen carried out. “There are a few minor changes we’ve made to ouroperating procedures and we’re obviously monitoring the situation throughout theTerritory very closely and we’re continuing to update our plans almost on anhourly basis,” he said.

Firefightersconfident of heading off ACT threat

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 13:14 AEDT

Firefightersin Canberra are optimistic they will head off a fire travelling towards thecity. There are fears high winds forecast for this afternoon will drive the fireinto Canberra’s north-western suburbs. Residents across nearly 30 suburbs arenow on alert, after the Emergency Services Bureau included five more areas.Nearly all of Belconnen, Gungahlin and the northern suburbs of Downer, Watson,and Mitchell as well as the town of Hall are now preparing. Police have spentthe morning patrolling the area, urging residents to take precautions. But theACT’s Chief Fire Commissioner Ian Bennett says the fire is moving slowly and isstill behind containment lines about 10 kilometres from the city. “Thoselines have not been breached, it’s got to come through New South Wales RuralFire Service lines and then through ACT lines before there’s any cause forconcern,” he said. A firestorm on Saturday destroyed 419 homes inCanberra’s western suburbs, killing four people and injuring hundreds more.

Policeon lookout for fires

Posted:Tue, 21 Jan 2003 11:32 AEDT

Canberrapolice are patrolling the city’s north-west ahead of a high fire danger expectedin the area this afternoon. Residents around Belconnen, Gungahlin and Hall havebeen placed on high alert. About 240 police are patrolling the areas, givingadvice to residents about wind conditions. They will be on hand to advise peopleif there is any need to evacuate. AFP incident commander Mandy Newton is askingpeople remain calm and to take advice from police and emergency servicesofficers. She says there is currently no immediate cause for concern


New South Wales:

TotalFire Ban – for Tuesday 21 January 2003

The weather forecast forthis area is very high temperature, low humidity and moderate to strong winds.These conditions are conducive to fire activity and the community is urged totake particular care. Fire danger in this area will be extreme or approachingextreme.
The Total Fire Ban will become effective for the 24 hours from MIDNIGHT TONIGHT,Monday, January 20, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Tuesday, 21 January 2003.
During a Total Fire Ban no fire of any kind may be lit in the open. Thisincludes incinerators and barbecues, which burn solid fuel, e.g. wood orcharcoal. 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 couldburn;
· You have a continuous supply of running water.
A map identifying the boundaries of weather districts can be found on the Bureauof Meteorology web site at of the public can phone 1 800 654 443 or their local NSW Rural FireService Fire Control Centre for more information.
The Rural Fires Act 1997 – Section 99 (2) states: “As soon as practicableafter making a direction under this section, the Minister is … (a) to causenotice of the direction to be broadcast by a television or radio stationtransmitting to the part or parts of the State concerned and in a newspapercirculating in those parts”

For more information (Please note this is for MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY):
FOR MEDIA ONLY: For more information or interviews regarding fire danger &fire safety:
Duty Media Officer 02 9898 1855


Statewide Total Fire Ban- for  22 January 2003

TheCommissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a STATEWIDE Total FireBan
The weather forecast for this area is very high temperature, low humidity andmoderate to strong winds. These conditions are conducive to fire activity andthe community is urged to take particular care. Fire danger in this area will beextreme or approaching extreme.
The Total Fire Ban will become effective for the 24 hours from MIDNIGHT TONIGHT,Tuesday, January 21, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Wednesday, 20 January 2003.
During a Total Fire Ban no fire of any kind may be lit in the open. Thisincludes incinerators and barbecues, which burn solid fuel, e.g. wood orcharcoal. 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 couldburn;

· 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 FireService Fire Control Centre for more information.

For more information (Please note this is for MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY):

DUTY MEDIA OFFICER (02) 9898 1855

Statewide Fire Update for  Tuesday, 21 January 2003, 10am

About 1500 firefightersare expected to work across firegrounds in NSW and the ACT today. Weatherconditions are expected to deteriorate today, with a Statewide total fire bandeclared. Hot, dry conditions and stronger winds are expected.

The fireground covers about 180,000ha extending from east of Wee Jasper in thenorth through to west of Michelago in the south. Winds are expected to increaseto 30-40kph with gusts over 65kph by mid afternoon. Maximum temperatures near 32degrees are predicted. The fire has not crossed the Monaro Highway and is on thewestern side of the highway. The Monaro Highway is open at this stage. Residentsin the following areas should make sure their properties are prepared as theymay be affected if north west winds prevail:

North: Wallaroo through toSutton
South: Williamsdale to Colinton.

Queanbeyan and Jerrabomberra properties are not threatened at this stage. Smokecontinues to hang over Queanbeyan. Residents should be vigilant, prepare theirproperties and listen to the radio for further official information.

Members of the public areencouraged to phone 1800 227 228 for fire information.

Kosciuszko National Park
Numerous fires are active across the Kosciusko region. As weather conditionsworsen today, extreme fire behaviour is predicted with a general movement offire and smoke in a southeasterly direction. Associated spot fires could occurmany kilometres down wind. Fire authorities are focussed on protecting life andproperty and maintaining established containment lines to reduce the run offires that could be expected to occur in the next 24 hours. Residents remain onalert and the park remains closed.

The fire around Lake Burrinjuck continues to be held behind containment lineswith pockets of activity not causing concern for properties at this time. Thefire is only burning lightly this morning. Yass and Murrumbateman are notthreatened at this stage and are not being evacuated. People in these areasshould be vigilant and prepared, however, the fire is many kilometres away andis not expected to affect the areas under the current conditions. The Yass RuralFire District is working on the north eastern section of fires that spreadthrough Yarrowlumla and Queanbeyan Rural Fire Districts. This area is expectedto spot and spread if the expected weather conditions come through today. Again,residents from Wallaroo to Sutton and those in the general area of fire areasked to be prepared.

Gosford – Calga, Mt White, Kariong
The fire burning towards Kariong is still being contained, however, goodcontainment lines now exist behind properties along the western edge of thefire. Fire crews will continue to keep a close watch on fire conditions and firespread as the day warms up. Some smoke will continue to affect the F3 and OldPacific Highway.
The northern rail link between Brooklyn and Gosford is closed from 10am to 4pmdue to backburning operations.

Seven separate fires across the Wyong Rural Fire District are generally burningin pockets of bushland and are not threatening properties at this time. TheChain Valley Bay fire, which began yesterday afternoon, continues to be of mostconcern. However, fire crews working through the night established containmentlines around the majority of these fires. Again, the affect of weather on thesefires will be closely monitored and a number of aircraft will waterbomb hotspotsin the area. No backburning is expected to be conducted 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, 21 January 20031 January 2003

Today 21 January 2003 has been declared a day of Total fire Ban for the North East Total Fire Ban district of Victoria.No Fires may lit or be allowed to remain alight in the North East district until midnight 21 January.People living in this district are advised to implement their bush fire protection plan.

Victoria Fires Update 21 January 2003,  1.30pm

North East 21 Jan 19:00hrs
Three separate fires burning in Eldorado, Springhurst and South Wangaratta

Eldorado fire: this fire has nowcrossed the Chiltern / Beechworth road. Presently there is high fire activityand suppression is proving difficult. The fire is travelling in a north easterlydirection moved by south west wind. Thefire is now in excess of 1500 hectares and aircraft are in attendance. Anumber of smaller fires have now also started in the area. South Wangarattafire: No change. Situated south of Wangaratta and is approximately 10 hectares.This is a flare up from yesterday’s fire in the same area.  Residentsin these areas are to expect to see smoke and burning embers and if defendingproperty should protect themselves from radiant heat by wearing the correctclothing including long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy boots, and a broadbrimmed hat. Residents are advisedto activate their bushfire safety plans. Fillbaths, buckets and sinks to have water supplies on hand, as water pressure maydrop due to high demand. Stay tunedto local radio for updates and note that this website will post updates asinformation comes to hand.

Fire in Lysterfield area 21st Jan, 7:30pm

CFA are in attendance at a fire near Lysterfield

CFA are in attendance at fires inLysterfield Park (Melways 82E9)  Thefirst of the fires is to the South of the Wellington and Kelletts roadintersection. The larger fire isstill burning in the vicinity of Glen Rd and Brae Rd (Melways 83 B4, C4) and isnearly under control. A furtherfire in the vicinity of Churchill National Park (Melways 82 G7) is now undercontrol. CFA have 33 trucks, 2dozers and 2 aircraft in attendance. Access to the area is difficult due tosteep terrain. Residents areadvised to remain alert and watch for burning embers. Protect from radiant heatby wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, sturdy boots and a broad brimmed hatif defending property


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 inTasmania:


07:08:41 PM 21 January, 2003

The fire has been contained but not yet fully controlled. Four houses andnumerous outbuildings have been lost Brigades are on property protection at thistime


06:59:59 PM 21 January, 2003

Wind gusts in excess of 100 kph have aided flare-ups of existing fires withincontainment lines. Flare-ups and spot fires have occurred on the northernboundary near Memana, east of Emita, and on the eastern boundary near Lackrana.Crews are patrolling the containment line on a 24 hour basis and extinguishingany spot fires that cross the containment line. Winds are expected to easetonight taking some pressure off fire crews. The fire is contained but not yetfully controlled. All available resources on the Island, including 1 helicopter,bulldozers, graders, private landowners’ vehicles have been used during the dayin fire operations. For more information please contact the Media Officer, ChrisTomes on 6359 8500.


06:16:05 PM 21 January, 2003

A scrub fire is burning on Gordons Hill Road behind the Rosny Golf Course.The TFS is responding with seven appliances, with additional support from Parksand Wildlife. 16:15 – The Tasman Highway has been closed and traffic is beingdiverted through Rosny Hill Rd.


05:29:59 PM 21 January, 2003

Increased fire activity has seen fire spread rapidly in a south-easterlydirection through Brighton towards Tea Tree /Pontville and the northern slopesof the Meehan Range. Multiple properties will be threatened. The TFS urges allnon-essential persons to stay well clear of the area, and encourages residentswho have undertaken to prepare their homes for bushfires to stay with theirproperty and help defend them. Should residents not be at home, we encourage youto return home, but advise that this will be subject to the roads being safe.For more information on what to do, refer to the section on this website – Whatto do in case of bushfire. Residents can deal with spot fires and ember attacklong before the main fire front arrives. TFS strategies revolve aroundcoinciding the arrival of our tankers with the main firefront to maximise theireffectiveness. 17:10 – The wind has dropped with a subsequent decrease in firespread. Aerial reconnaissance reveals there is no fire spread to the east of aline between the railway cutting at Brighton and Pontville. Our assessment nowis that properties referred to above the Pontville/Tea Tree area are no longerunder threat. However, the TFS recommends that residents should be alert to fireembers. 17:30 – 39 appliances are in attendance. So far, we have 4000ha burntwith the loss of only one house and several out-buildings.


05:29:20 PM 21 January, 2003

5 appliances from Bushy Park, Westerway, Magra and Gretna, plus several firecrews from Norske Skog are in attendance at a fire that is developing in ruggedbushland to the north of Uxbridge. Brigades are working on property protection.The TFS is carrying out aerial reconnaisance of the fire at the moment. 17:30 -500ha of pines are burning. Road has been closed to all but residents, TFS andNorske Skog vehicles.


05:23:49 PM 21 January, 2003

11 appliances are attending this fire. Several structures and numerousoutbuildings have been lost. Brigades are on property protection at this time.Power has been cut to the Channel area and the Channel Highway is closed.


03:18:49 PM 21 January, 2003

Overnight weather conditions hampered firefighting operations at the Bluff Rdfire, Broadmarsh. Firefighters battled strong north westerly winds concentratingtheir efforts to protect property in the Millvale Road area. At this stage3200ha of mainly bush and grassland has been burnt with one confirmed structureand several outbuildings lost. The TFS would like to acknowledge the efforts ofall firefighting personnel including local landowners who have assisted wheneverrequired. Midlands Highway is currently closed between Bridgewater and Brighton.We have 33 tankers and 130 personnel in attendance. 15:17 – Midlands Highway hasjust been re-opened.


02:58:25 PM 21 January, 2003

11 brigade units currently in attendance at Kregors Rd. Fire is running in aSW direction. Reported structures lost not confirmed at this stage.


06:39:02 AM 21 January, 2003

Incident # 88609 Cove Hill Road, Bridgwater Status: Going Approx 45-50hectares burnt. No property lost (mainly stock feed & fences). The fire iswithin safe edges. 4 units are currently patrolling the area, and further crewsbeing organised for today. Fire is in the Horton Hill area heading towardsBriggs Road and Plymouth Road, Gagebrook. Crews patrolling in the Briggs Roadand Sattler Street sectors. (LFF Peters S)

Incident # 88578 Broadmarsh Fires Status: Going
Unable to contain the fire overnight. Crews went into asset protection. The fireis currently at Millvale Road and has burnt an area of approx 3000 hectares.Crews are changing over at 0700 hours, expecting a total of 20 appliances &50 – 60 firefighters. If it weren’t for the shear hard work of Firefightersovernight, we would have lost homes. (D/O Hogan) Conducting full propertyprotection along the Millvale Road, Cobbs Hill Road and western flank ofElderslie Road.

Incident # 88602 Hilton Road, Austins Ferry Status: Stopped
Approx area of 4 hectares burnt. Residents in the area are still reporting smallflare ups. Crews monitoring and patrolling overnight & tomorrow.

Incident # 88595 Garths Road, Cradoc Status: Going
Dozer completed track around most of fire last night. Crews patrolling, blackingout at the moment, and will continue overnight with 4 crews. (D/O Jones)

Incident # 88581 Connors Road, Cygnet Status: Going
Crews have blacked out and will continue to do so overnight and tomorrow. (D/OJones)

Incident # 88515 Woodbridge Hill Road Status: Going
Contained. Not patrolled at this time and not causing a concern. Will checkthroughout the morning. (D/O Jones)

Incident # Chicks Perch Status: Stopped
99.9% out. Occasional ‘smoker’ comes up and is spotted by a member of thepublic most days. Not causing any concern as it’s in the middle of a burnt outarea. (Per D/O Jones)

Incident # 88548 Stormlea Status: Going

The fire is contained and crews plan to patrol the fire edge throughout the day.

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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