GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

02 February 2003

BushfiresRaging in Southeast Australia

Pixel Size 2 km 
(0,7 Mb) Pixel Size 250m (8,1 Mb)

This true-color ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) images from the Aqua satellite on February 02,2003, shows the fires in southeastern Australia marked with red dots. 


Bushfires Raging in Southeast Australia

A break in the weather has given firefighters in southeast Australia a much-needed hand as January winds to a close. After weeks of battling scores of fires in the remote and often inaccessible terrain of the Great Dividing Range Mountains of southeastern New South Wales and northeastern Victoria, firefighters were handed a little rain, calmer winds, and a drop in temperatures.

More than a million acres of have been scorched by the blazes, and this false-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image from the Terra satellite on January 31, 2003, shows the extent of the burned area. Vegetation is bright green, burned areas are red or reddish-brown, and areas of naturally low vegetation (or bare soil) are tan. Active fires are marked with red dots. Smoke is blue. 



The NOAA/NESDIS Experimental Fire Potential Product
This product is based on the estimated intensity and duration of vegetation stress which can be used as a proxy for assessment of fire potential and danger. It combines two satellite-based indices – the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and thermal data from the NOAA AVHRR sensors. Area, intensity, and duration of vegetation stress, fire potential and danger can be estimated from colour-coded maps covering all continents. An introduction to the weekly updated products are accessible at:

click to enlarge (140 KB)

Latest weekly global fire potential product map, including Australia 
(upper scene) 
and comparison with the situation in the previous month (map below)
(Source: NOAA/NESDIS Experimental Fire Potential Product, prepared by Felix Kogan, Robert M.Carey and David Forsyth.)



This false-color image shows the resulting concentrations of carbon monoxide (CO) at an altitude of roughly 3 km (700 millibars) in the atmosphere over Australia and New Zealand. Data taken by the Measurements Of Pollution In The Troposphere (MOPITT) instrument aboard NASA’s Terra satellite have been combined for 6 days from January 15-20, 2003. The colors represent the mixing ratios of carbon monoxide in the air, given in parts per billion by volume. In this scene, values range from as high as 250 ppbv (purple pixels) to as low as 50 ppbv (blue pixels). The white areas show where no data were collected, either due to persistent cloud cover or gaps between satellite viewing swaths.

Carbon monoxide is produced as a result of incomplete combustion during burning processes, and is important due to its impact on chemistry in the lower atmosphere. It is a good indicator of atmospheric pollution, and its presence adversely affects the atmosphere’s ability to cleanse itself. Because carbon monoxide is persistent for several weeks, it clearly shows the propagation of pollution plumes from the region of the Australian fires out thousands of kilometers into the usually pristine atmosphere of the southern Pacific Ocean. The distribution of pollution over Australia corresponds closely with satellite observed aerosol emitted by the fires as observed by TOMS.


CSARADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch
Thefollowing requests were acquired under the MCS Disaster Watch:

NewSouth Wales – Victoria, Bushfires, Australia (2 images):

  • 26 Jan 2003 19:05:22 UTC; S7-16; cycle 109 orbit 262.59977 duration 0.00862; OBR: -GSS

  • 27 Jan 2003 09:00:47 UTC; S5-16; cycle 109 orbit 270.89112 duration 0.00862; OBR: -GSS

For moreinformation see:

CSARADARSAT-1 Disaster Watch
c/o: SatelliteOperations
CanadianSpace Agency



This false-color map of theworld  shows an aerosol index produced from data collected by the Total ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) on30  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

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


 Overview Australia 

Bushfires blamed for harmful emissions: NPI
The latest figures from the National Pollutant Inventory (NPI) for last yearshow one of the largest and most harmful emissions in the Northern Territorycomes from bushfires.
Paul Lloyd from the Territory’s Office of Environment and Heritage says the oiland gas extraction industry, mining and power generation are the three biggestcontributors to benzene emissions in the Territory.
But Mr Lloyd says both controlled and wild fires are the biggest benzeneproducers.
“The emissions from all these industrial facilities around the Territoryare a small proportion of the total benzene emissions and the surprising mainsource is from bushfires across the Northern Territory,” he said.
“They produce about two thirds of benzene emissions.”
ABC news



Issued at 0708 on Sunday the 2nd of February 2003
for  Sunday the 2nd of February 2003 
Hot and dry conditions are expected to cause VERY HIGH TO EXTREME FIRE DANGER inthe following weather forecast district:
Lower Western

The Commissioner, NSW Rural Fire Service has TOTALLY BANNED THE LIGHTING OF
FIRES until midnight tonight, Sunday the 2nd of February 2003, in the
following weather forecast district: 
Lower Western

A map identifying the boundaries of weather districts can be found on the Bureau of Meteorology web site at more information (Please note this is for MEDIA INQUIRIES ONLY): Duty Media Officer 02 9898 1855

Websites:    or

Weather: Bureau of meteorologywebsite with educational material about bushfires which may be useful for themedia for background material:

Radio: Listen to Radio 2XL, Snowy Mountains FM and ABC Bega

Source: NSW Rural FireService 



Crews focus on backburning in Vic
Firefighters have taken advantage of mild weather to continuebackburning and strengthening containment lines around blazes in Victoria’snorth and east.
Works on the fires ranged from Mount Buffalo in the east, to Gelantipy in thewest.
The fires have now burnt out more than 700,000 hectares.
Ian Miles from the Department of Sustainability and Environment says fire crewsare trying to achieve as much as possible before the weather deteriorates laterin the week.
“Milder conditions today have allowed us to do a fair bit of consolidationof containment lines and backburning around private property assets,particularly on the southern edge of the fire which really extends from MountBuffalo through an area north of Dargo, around Swifts Creek, Omeo and thenGelantipy,” he said.
Source: ABC news

Statewide Update 31 January 2003

Other Agency Support locations2nd Feb 8pm

Where are the supporting Agency personnel deployed?

As at 1500hrs today, 2nd February:

New Zealand are based at Mt Hotham

Department of Defence are based at Buffalo

USA fire fighters are based at Gippsland

QLD RFS are based at Gelantipy

South Australia crews are based at Tallangatta Valley 

Bogong North Update 2nd Feb 7:45pm

A general activity update

Status of the Bogong North Fires

Note: Bogong North Updates will now incorporate updates for Tawonga, MountainCreek, Lake Cobbler and Harrietville

The Bogong North Complex fire is still going and of concern. Most areas are nowcontained. Extensive backburning continued today.
Residents in the vicinity of all fires are reminded to remain vigilant over thecoming days. Calmer weather conditions forecast for today have reduced the firethreat, but the weather will be warming up over the next few days.

Bright / Porepunkah / Wandiligong / Ovens Buckland / DemonRidge / Lake Buffalo
Patrolling continues with no issues or hot spots reported
Harrietville /Freeburgh / Mt Beauty / Tawonga
Mopping up and blacking out continued today

Schultz Sector
This sector is the key south western containment line for the statewidecontainment strategy
Two spot overs have been contained, and a dozer trail is being put around athird
1 km of backburn has been completed
Abbeyard (south west side of Mt Buffalo)
This sector is the key south western containment line for the statewidecontainment strategy
South of Durling Track is being backburned and blacked out
2 km of backburn completed

Mitta Valley
Backburns have continued in Mitta Mitta today. Patrolling the area between thefires and private property also continued.

Mountain Creek
Backburning is progressing slowly due to high relative humidity and heavy smoke
This information has been extracted from the BogongNorth Community Update (published on the Department pf Sustainability andEnvironment website)

Bogong (South) Fire 2nd Feb 5.30pm

A joint media release from DSE and CFA

Firefighters continue to work hard to take advantage of kinderweather conditions to progress backburns and establish containment lines forcommunity protection.
There has been low fire activity in the Dargo Valley area today, with smokecover over the general area. There have been no reports of new fires, howeversome property owners have reported increased fire activity.
Construction of mineral earth breaks around assets in the Dargo area are 80 percent completed. The remaining 20 per cent is planned to be completed in next 24hours. Work is continuing on fallback lines.
DSE/DPI crews and equipment have been deployed to work on spotfires atMatheson’s Flat and Mount Birregun. Pre positioning of CFA resources to Dargowill occur today.
There is still active fire at the eastern end of Mount Hotham Village, but noassets are under threat. All other areas in the Mount Hotham/Dinner Plain areaare now blacked out, but reconnaissance is continuing.
It has been generally quiet in the Benambra and Omeo areas, with crews stillworking on dozer tracks to establish breaks between public and private land.Crews are on the lookout for hotspots and more backburning is planned for assetprotection in the Nunniong and Cassilis areas and north of Bindi Station.
Backburning and track construction continue in the Mount Stewart and Amboyneareas on the eastern sector of the fire, with approximately 35kms of backburningcompleted here.
Bulldozers and graders are currently working on the Yalmy Road fallback line infar East Gippsland. Many of these are logging industry machines provided bylocal contractors to help with the massive task of constructing a strategic firebreak from which backburns and containment lines can be established to protectcommunities from the fire.
The Queensland Fire and Rescue crew have not gone home as reported this morning.They have had a brief rest and are now back assisting the fire effort in eastGippsland.
Gippsland Community Fire Information line: 1800 668 066

Gippsland Fire Update 2nd Feb 1pm

Community Update.

The portion of the Bogong South complex fire, managed by jointagency Incident Management Teams at Swifts Creek, Orbost and Bairnsdale is nowabout 380,000 hectares, stretching from Dargo in the west to Tubbut in the east.
Spotfires and lightning strikes outside the main fire continue to be a majorfocus for attack from the ground and the air.
The communities of Brookville, Cassilis, Bindi, Tongio, Suggan Buggan,Wulgulmerang, Gelantipy and Tubbut have been most affected and propertyprotection is priority in these areas.
Spotfires continue to burn in the Dargo River Valley, with the closest to Dargobeing 16kms north of the town at Matheson’s Flat.

Monitoring the Fire
Low cloud has been hampering efforts to determine the extent of the firescurrently burning in the northern area of the Snowy River National Park andadjacent private property.
Indications are that the fire has progressed east of the Snowy River and ismoving in a south easterly direction.

The Weather
A fine day is predicted today, with winds tending easterly, then northerly.Temperatures are expected to climb to reach the mid 30s by Tuesday, accompaniedby stronger northerly winds.

Road closures:
The Great Alpine Road north of Bruthen is closed to all vehicles exceptemergency vehicles and local traffic.
Omeo Highway between Omeo and Mitta Mitta
Great Alpine Road north of Omeo
Benambra-Corryong road, between Omeo and Corryong
Benambra Road between Uplands and Colac Colac
Benambra-Suggan Buggan Road (Limestone-Black Mountain Road)
Bogong High Plains Road between Falls Creek and Omeo Highway.
Dargo High Plains Road between Dargo & Mt Hotham
Gelantipy Road, north of Buchan
Snowy River Road
McKillops Tourist Road
Cabandra Road
Dellicknora Road
Benambra-Limestone Road
Lower Dargo Road
No public access to Bogong High Plains, Bogong Village, Mount Hotham Village andFalls Creek.

Upper Murray Fires Update 2nd Feb 6am

Information for the local communities about the fires in theUpper Murray area and the measures being implemented to control them.

Conditions were very good yesterday and are expected to remain so today. Thiswill enable control and preparation works to continue. No strong winds areforecast which is good news but the smoke we are currently experiencing islikely to stay around today.
Although it’s not pleasant the presence of smoke is actually helpful as itreduces ground heating from the sun and keeps fire behaviour quieter.
Residents in all districts are reminded that any backburning needs to be done aspart of an overall control plan and implemented by the district incidentcontrol.

The Red Cross are on a Roll
650 rolls a day in fact – that’s how many lunch packs the Australian RedCross Society made for firefighters in the Upper Murray on the busiest day offire fighting.
The Red Cross caterers are made up of seven teams of 12-14 people. Each teamcomes in once a week to make up the lunch packs. Half of these packs arerefrigerated and delivered at midnight to night crews.
Chris Wilson, Coordinator of the Red Cross catering effort at Corryong says ‘Iwould like to thank local businesses and individuals in the community for theirsupport, some of whom have even bought in donations of home cooking andhome-grown produce’.
The Red Cross also provides a first aid service for the Corryong-based firecrews. As the firefighters arrive back at base, trained Level 2 first aiderstreat a number of the crew for minor ailments like splinters and insect bites.The most common treatment is irrigating eyes.
Both teams, catering and first aid, are made up of Red Cross members andvolunteers. On behalf of the fire crews and Incident Management Team at Corryongwe would like to say thanks for looking after us!

Gippsland Town of Wulgulmerang Suffers in Fire Fury
Residents of the remote country town of Wulgulmerang in the north east ofthe Gippsland region were devastated yesterday by the southeastern flank of theBogong fire. The focus on Saturday’s firefighting efforts were on backburningand containment lines to secure communities and property and on extinguishingthe numerous spotfires that arose from the intense fire activity.

Further Information and resources

24 hour public and community information line (Towong Shire) 02 6071 5100 – alsocheck your local community notice board for community updates

Victoria Police Information hotline (road closures) 1800 444 343

Parks Victoria Hotline 13 19 63

CFA Community Hotline 1800 240 667
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) website

DSECommunity Updates – available for Upper Murray, Ovens and Kiewa Valley,Gippsland, Beechworth and Bogong fires. Detailed reports, produced daily.
Tune into your local radio station:
ABC Wodonga 106.5, ABC Corryong 99.7, Revival Time Radio 94.9, Upper MurrayCommunity Radio 88.7 or 107.5, 2AY Albury AM, 3NE AM – 1566, River Radio – 105.7

Current Fire Situation 2nd Feb 9.30am

To date, the Alpine fires have burnt approx 698,000 hectares -a CFA Media Update.

To date the Alpine fires have burnt approximately 698,000hectares of parks, forests and private lands.

Fires to the North of Wulgulmerang and Gelantipy are still of concern because ofthe potential threat to private assets in the Tubbit, Bonang and Bendoc areas.

Fire activity was fairly quiet in the Bogong North complex yesterday, withcrews involved mainly with patrolling, mop up and further construction ofcontainment lines.
In the Bogong South complex, fire activity increased as the afternoonprogressed. Visibility once again impaired the use of aircraft throughout mostof the day, however aircraft were used late in the afternoon.
Further, aerial and ground reconnaissance has identified extensive areas offorest north of Wulgulmerang and large spot fires in the Deddick Tubbit area.These fires are not yet contained.

The “Flying Fruit Fly” Circus school building in Woodland Street,Woodonga, has been destroyed by fire.
This school was part of the Woodonga high school complex and included fiveclassrooms and two staff rooms.
Damage is estimated at two million dollars.
CFA trucks from Woodonga and Woodonga West were supported by firefighters fromthe Army service with a total of 40 firefighters containing the blaze.
CFA currently has a crew remaining on the scene and police are conductinginvestigations.
CFA were called out at 3.50 this morning and that fire was contained at 4.25this morning.

Bogong North Complex
Consolidation of fire edges backburning and fuel removal burns were conducedthroughout yesterday to consolidate control over a number of active edges inthis complex.
Most crews were rested overnights as there was only limited fire activity.
A number of CFA resources will be redeployed today from Bogong North toGippsland and further redeployment is expected tomorrow.

Overnight five kilometers of backburning was completed along the north westboundary of private property of the Bindi valley and also areas south west ofBindi.
Planning is under way to build containment lines to the east of the complex tolink up with back burn lines being managed by the Orbost incident managementteam.
Residents are warned to be aware of stock on road sides particularly in theSwifts Creek and Omeo areas.

1800 240 667
13 15 99

1800 131 701
5721 6170


Alpine Fires Update 2nd Feb 7am

A joint media release from DSE and CFA

Current Summary
On ground efforts continued overnight to determine the extent of the firescurrently burning in the northern area of the Snowy River National Park andadjacent private property. Indications are that the fire has progressed east ofthe Snowy River and moving in a south-easterly direction. Containment lines willcontinue to be established around private property and assets in theTubbut/Deddick/Bonang area. A major containment line is being constructedbetween Victoria and NSW in an effort to limit the SE spread of this fire.
In Gippsland fire crews have continued to establish containment lines alongprivate property boundaries and around assets in the Cassalis, Bindi, SwiftsCreek areas. Significant fire activity in the Bindi/Tongio area continue tocreate concern. Crews are continuing to monitor the situation.
The hard work by fire crews and residents of the North East has resulted in nofurther reported property damage. In Gippsland, reports indicate substantialdamage to houses and other buildings in the Wulgulmerang/Seldom Seen area northof Buchan as a result of intense fire activity late Friday afternoon.
To date, the Alpine fires have burnt approximately 698,700 hectares of Victorianparks and forests.
Although there has been an abatement of fire activity in the main fire area, thefire situation is expected to intensify once again over the coming days andresidents are advised to maintain their preparedness levels.

The main Bogong North complex, incorporating the Mt Buffalo fire, has nowburnt over 302,000 hectares and is still burning strongly despite the milderweather experienced yesterday and last night. Fire crews were able to conductlimited backburning operations in preparation for next week’s predicted hotweather.
The Bogong South fire complex fire continues to remain active and has now burntover 396,700 hectares. Damper weather impeded backburning operations in someareas yesterday. The spot fires and lightning strikes outside of the main fire,continue to be attacked east of the Barry Way. The fire front has crossed theSnowy River between McKillops Bridge and the NSW border and is moving in a SouthEast direction.

Today: Fine day, mild to warm with winds tending easterly then northerly.Temperatures in the low 30s

Monday: Fine. Mainly sunny. Temperatures in the low 30s.

Tuesday: Fine. Temperatures in the mid 30s. Winds tending N/NE av 20-25 kph.

Personnel currently involved:
Around 1770 from the Government agencies
approximately 1,500 CFA from outside the Region (supporting local volunteerbrigades)
120 Army
116 South Australian
130 NSW Rural Fire Service
68 QLD Fire & Rescue
33 New Zealand
3 liaison personnel from NSW and 1 from QLD Fire Services
22 USA (21 firefighters and 1 infra-red specialist)

Over 30 aircraft including a Navy Sea King and an Army Iroquois Helicopter, over250 specialised vehicles and 83 bulldozers.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment, Department of PrimaryIndustries, Parks Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, local plantation companybrigades, forest industry crews and equipment, Victoria Police, Red Cross, RuralAmbulance Victoria, St John’s Ambulance, the Army Reserve, the Australian Navy,State Emergency Service, WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network),local municipalities, New Zealand fire and conservation agencies, SouthAustralian Country Fire Service and Parks Service, NSW Rural Fire Service andState Forests, QLD Fire and Rescue Service and several US fire agencies.

See description of individual fires for current threats to private property.

Community meetings continue to be held throughout the region. More than5,000 people have now attended these meetings. Meetings are scheduled for todayin Cann River, Cabbage Tree and Mt Taylor. The meetings are designed to assistlocal residents and visitors to the area with the current fire situation, and toput in place on-going community networks. Further community meetings will occuras necessary and will be advised locally.
Liaison between local shires/DSE/DPI/CFA/PV and Victoria Police continues on aregular basis, as does liaison with NSW fire agencies. Local Community Updatescontinue to be circulated on a regular basis.

Victoria has around 7.7 million hectares of parks and forests. In an averagesummer around 620 wildfires occur and these burn around 110, 000 hectares. Todate this season 675 fires have occurred. These have burnt over 939,290hectares. The 20-year average for this time of year is 357 fires, having burntover 49, 000 hectares.

Further information and resources:

Victoria Police Information hotline (road closures) 1800 444 343

Parks Victoria Hotline 13 19 63

CFA Community Hotline 1800 240 667

Gippsland Community Fire Information line 1800 668 066

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) website
DSECommunity Updates – available for Upper Murray, Ovens and Kiewa Valley,Gippsland, Beechworth and Bogong fires. Detailed reports, produced daily.
NSW RuralFire Service website

Latest Fire Maps 2 Feb 4pm

North East Fire Maps …

North East Fires Maps
The following maps are updated up to twice daily:

Overview Map- (jpeg approx 200kb)
Closerview of North East Fires – (jpeg approx 200kb)
Hiresolution PDF file of Fires (can zoom in on this map) – LargeDownload* (pdf size from 2 to 3Mb)
Further Information:
CSIRO also provide online mapping of the fires situation at

Further information and resources:
Victoria Police Information hotline (road closures) 1800 444 343
Parks Victoria Hotline 13 19 63
CFA Community Hotline 1800 240 667
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) website
DSECommunity Updates – available for Upper Murray, Ovens and Kiewa Valley,Gippsland, Beechworth and Bogong fires. Detailed reports, produced daily.
NSW RuralFire Service website
…and stay tuned to your local radio stations: ABC radio FM 106.5, 91.7 or89.7, EDGE FM /3NE radio, Mt Beauty & Myrtleford FM 90.1, Mt Hotham FM 89.3,
Buffalo FM 99.1

Further information and resources
Information hotlines for residents in the Towong Shire (02) 6071 5100 and theAlpine Shire 5755 0524
Victoria Police Information hotline (road closures) 1800 444 343
Parks Victoria Hotline 13 19 63
CFA Community Hotline 1800 240 667
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) website
DSECommunity Updates – available for Upper Murray, Ovens and Kiewa Valley,Gippsland, Beechworth and Bogong fires. Detailed reports, produced daily.
NSW RuralFire Service website
…and stay tuned to your local radio station.


Department of Sustainability and Environment
 for more detailed information
Community Updates
on the DS&E website are alsoavailable

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



Please see update of 01 February 2003


Please see update of 01 February 2003

With letters directed to the A.C.T. Bushfire Service and the CFA Victoria on 26January 2003 the GFMC has offered liaison with Russia for the deployment ofIL-76 air tankers to assist the Australian authorities in fire suppression.

Currentweather situation, forecasts, fireweather Actual fire Situation Tasmania Actual Fire Situation Maps, Tasmania More Information on Australian Fires IFFN country notes Further Information Australian and New Zealand links. Background information Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics

Australia´s fire seasons


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