GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

04 February 2003

Bushfires Raging in Southeast Australia

Left: Heat signatures (red), burn scars (charcoal), and thick smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires throughout southeastern Australia in this MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) image from the Terra satellite. Smoke (indicated by the yellow arrows) is visible extending southward over the Tasman Sea.
Right: Heat signatures (red), burn scars (charcoal), and thick smoke (light blue haze) are visible from fires burning throughout southeastern Australia in this MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) image from the Terra satellite. 



The bushfires in southeast Australia are still burning out of control, and news reports indicate only substantial rainfall will extinguish them. On February 3, 2003, a smoke warning was issued for Melbourne and related areas, and this Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) image from Feb. 3 shows why. A large plume of smoke blankets the southeastern part of New South Wales and northeastern Victoria. The plume stretches out over Bass Strait toward Tasmania. To date, the fires have burned more than 2 million acres.

Source: NASA/ EO


Latest satellite images:  Bushfires Raging in Southeast Australia

31 January 2003

1 February 2003

Fragmentsof the BIRD 3.8µm channel image showing  the area of Canberra obtained on31 January and 1 February.
 Source: German Aerospace Center. BIRD website:
The left-hand box contains two radiative temperature scales: a) a grey levelscale for pixel averaged background temperatures and b) a coloured scale forpixel averaged temperatures which are higher than the background temperaturesand are indicating hot spots.

Mapshowing the center part of the BIRD satellite scenes above.

BIRD images depicting bushfires in SE Australia between 26 January and 1 February 2001, illustrating the decreasing fire activitiy at the end ofthat 6-days period. The next (daytime) BIRD overpass of the Canberra
region is expected for 14 February 2003. (PDF file 0,2 MB)

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.)


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)



Snowy Region Fire Facts Summary Tuesday, 4 February 2003,Overview

The fires burning in the Snowy Mountains region are now largely contained in the north and western
areas. Fire fighters are increasingly focussing their efforts on the southern and south-eastern areas
where fire is relatively active.

The moderate weather and prevailing easterly wind patterns are enabling fire fighters to consolidate containment lines. The smoke clearly visible to residents in places such as Jindabyne, Delegate and the Alpine Way is due largely to back burning – which is proceeding well in the favourable weather conditions – and to pockets of fire which are being allowed to burn safely to containment lines. Spotting outside containment lines is being actively suppressed.

Current areas of focus are resorts in the vicinity of Perisher and Guthega, Avonside Road east of Jindabyne, areas near the Barry Way including Ingebyra and Paupong, and the Jerrys Flat area west of Delegate. Particular attention is being paid to joint state coordination to contain fires on either side of the border west of Delegate.

Overnight fire activity was minimal due to low temperatures and heavy dew in the early hours. Some backburning was completed on the east side of the Barry Way near Ingebyra and around minor spot fires near the Alpine Way.

While fires have now burnt almost 400,000 hectares of Kosciuszko National Park and adjacent land, the short-term outlook is fairly optimistic. Moderate weather is creating an excellent window of opportunity for fire fighters to consolidate containment lines and conduct strategic backburning. Thursday may bring storms and increased winds, but they are likely to be moderate north to north-easterly winds. No return to the extreme conditions of last Thursday – very high temperatures and strong gusting north-westerly winds – is currently predicted.

Three Rural Fire Service task forces start work today and an additional task force is arriving from Queensland.

Public meetings – Delegate and Bombala
Public meetings will be held this Thursday 6 February at 5pm at Delegate School of Arts and 7.30pm at Bombala RSL Auditorium.

Avonside Road
The Avonside Road fire created small spot fires near Lake Jindabyne slightly to the west – in contrast to last Thursday when the many spot fires were all east of the fire fronts. Yesterday’s spotovers were quickly contained by substantial ground crews and water-bucketing helicopters.

The Avonside Road fire is not currently threatening property. A containment line has been established on the north side of the Snowy River. Crews will today consolidate a dozer line on the south of the river and develop strategies to round up the fire. Residents in the area are urged to remain on alert.

Moonbah, Ingebyra and Paupong areas
All fire activity in this area remains within containment lines and backburning continued overnight. Ground crews established new lines to contain spot fires in the Ingebyra area yesterday. Crews today plan to establish dozer lines beneath a fire moving slowly downhill off the Moonbah Range. The Snowy River has been established as the southern containment line for fire in the Numbla Vale area, while fire fighters used aerial incendiaries to consolidate nearby backburns. Backburning continues today in the Paupong area.

Alpine Way, Crackenback and Wollondibby areas
Fire has been moving slowly downhill off Crackenback Ridge and Penderlea Hill. These fires are behind containment lines in the Thredbo River valley, and are functioning as de-facto backburns to consolidate these lines. Fire fighters are monitoring them and may do active backburning if weather conditions remain favourable. There was limited backburning around minor spot fires near the Alpine Way last night.

The Thredbo area was quiet today. Patrols continue and property protection remains a priority.

Perisher, Guthega, Smiggins
Fire was active yesterday in several areas north of Guthega and at Wilsons Valley on the southern side of Kosciuszko Road. Patrols and mop up work overnight are being continued today.

Kalkite Mountain
Fire on Kalkite Mountain continued to burn downhill towards containment lines. A dozer line on the northern edge is complete. Fire fighters are pleased with the progress of this fire and may introduce aerial incendiaries today to further consolidate the containment lines.

Snowy Plains and Adaminaby area
These areas remain quiet and are being patrolled by local crews.

Border area fires – overview
Co-operative planning involving NSW and Victorian fire authorities has increased to develop a containment strategy for the eastern front of the Victorian fires. A forward control centre has been established at Bendoc to manage major fire activity near Deddick. In a welcome reverse of recent fortunes, all fires east of the Bonang highway have now been contained.

Jerry’s Flat / Dellicknora (NSW/Victoria fires)
Fires are active on either side of the border to the west of Delegate. The fire in this area is considered under control as it is travelling in a southwesterly direction back towards burnt areas, and behind the extensive containment lines currently being developed on both sides of the border.

Weather conditions have been ideal for back burning the control lines that now stretch from the Byadbo area well into Victoria. Wind-assisted backburning and aerial incendiaries yesterday enabled fire fighters to establish containment lines up to two kilometres in width. Victorian fire fighters are busily developing lines to the south, expected to meet shortly with the NSW lines. This work is designed to establish a protective perimeter stretching from burnt areas in the Byadbo area in Kosciuszko National Park to the Bogong Fire Complex in Victoria.

Bombala and Delegate areas
Containment lines around Bombala have been complemented with further lines along the Duke Energy Pipeline, to the west of the town, and another graded line south of Bombala High School.

Property protection work was carried out yesterday around the border communities of Bungarby, Corrowong and the Delegate River and pine plantations near Craigee.

North Kosciuszko overview
Most fire in the north end of the park – including Michelago, Yaouk Valley and west of the Snowy Mountains Highway between Talbingo and Kiandra – remains contained. Patrol and mop up continue. All back burning is now completed. Fire authorities are scaling down aircraft and night crews.

Containment lines to halt the Black Andrews fire, which was threatening extensive pine plantations in the Burrinjuck Dam area, are almost complete. State Forest crews patrolled the area overnight and containment lines held.

Crews are patrolling and mopping up.

Yarrangobilly complex
Fire fighters will further consolidate containment line work along the Upper Murray and Maragle Power Lines today. The situation remains under control.

Yaouk Valley
Containment lines are holding and secure. Crews continue patrolling the area. High altitude monitoring with infrared equipment has revealed very little fire activity in the area.

Broken Cart and Wyora fires
These fires remain within containment lines.

Yellow Bog
Fire fighters have completed back burning and aerial incendiary work along a 30 kilometre containment line in this western area of the park. The area will be mopped up and patrolled over the next few days.

Today: dry and warm with maximum temperatures in the high 20s. Light north-easterly to north-westerly winds tending north-easterly through the day and increasing to 20-30 km/h in the afternoon and evening. Relative humidities are likely to rise in the afternoon and evening.
Tonight: dry with moderate NE winds.
Wednesday: dry and getting warmer. Light to moderate NE-NW winds freshening in the afternoon and evening.
Thursday: dry and very warm with moderate to fresh N-NE winds in the afternoon.

Care with machinery
Jindabyne Fire Control is urging residents to be extremely careful when using plant such as slashers, mowers and edge-trimmers that have the potential to ignite fires. Use them in the morning when there is dew on the ground and temperatures are lower. All slashers must carry fire-fighting equipment.

Access to resorts
The Jindabyne Emergency Operations Centre has advised that access to Thredbo, Perisher Valley and Smiggin Holes is for essential staff and residents only.

Livestock management
The NSW Department of Agriculture has advised of a range of actions people can take if they are concerned about the safety of their livestock during the current bushfire crisis. For more details contact the Department of Agriculture on 0411 139594.

Websites:    or

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

Source: NSW Rural FireService 


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



DSE/DPI Fire Update Tuesday February 4 2003 9am (Day 28)

Current Summary

· Although conditions remained relatively mild in most of the fire area yesterday, fire crews were kept busy with several areas of concern. The area around Mitta Mitta, Hotham, and the Upper Tallangatta Valley in the north, and the area around Swifts Creek in the south particularly, saw more active fire behaviour yesterday afternoon. Several spotovers were reported south west of Swifts Creek. These are yet to be contained.
· Three further US incident management specialists will arrive in Melbourne later today. They will join their 28 US colleagues already assisting with the fire effort.
· To date, the Eastern Victorian fires have burnt approximately 920, 000 hectares of Victorian parks and forests.
· The fire situation is predicted to intensify once again over the coming days and all residents in the fire area are advised to maintain their preparedness levels and to remain alert.

Current Going Fires

· The fire which stretches from Mt Buffalo in the west, to the NSW border and to near Deddick in East Gippsland has now burnt over 880,000 hectares.
· Backburning was again undertaken yesterday and overnight in the Mountain Creek area in the north. Key containment areas in the south and east of the fires were strengthened with burning and mineral earth break construction. Township protection works have been completed around Dargo and Harrietville. West of Mitta Mitta 10km of backburning was completed overnight, 8km remains.
· The four separate fires burning in East Gippsland in the northern end of the Snowy River National Park are still active. A major containment line is proposed along the Yalmy Road to Bonang in the east. Successful backburning has been undertaken in the Snowy River National Park and these burnt areas are planned to link up with back burns coming south from New South Wales.
· Last night infra-red linescan mapping was conducted in the west of the fire area, and around Mitta Mitta and the Wabba Wilderness.

3. Weather in the north-east and East Gippsland

Today: Dry, warm to hot (low to mid 30s). Winds will tend moderate NE to N during the day, SE change is expected later in the afternoon.
Wednesday: Generally warm to hot with initial N/NE wind. Isolated thunderstorms and showers with a moderate southerly wind possible late in the day. Possible lightning.Thursday: Warm to hot. Some showers and thunderstorms are possible late in the day.

4. Resources on the Eastern Fires
· Personnel currently involved:
– Around 1,900 from the Government agencies
– approximately 1, 500 CFA from outside the Region
– 120 Army
– 116 South Australian
– 68 QLD Fire & Rescue
– 33 New Zealand
– 28 USA
· Over 30 aircraft including a Navy Sea King and an Army Iroquois Helicopter, over 250 specialised vehicles, at least 100 bulldozers, and a major commitment from the Gippsland based timber industry.

5. Agencies involved

The Department of Sustainability and Environment, Department of Primary Industries, Parks Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, local plantation company brigades, forest industry crews and equipment, Victoria Police, Red Cross, Rural Ambulance 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, South Australian Country Fire Service and Parks Service, QLD Fire and Rescue Service and several US land management agencies.

7. Community Information
· Community meetings continue to be held throughout the Alpine and East Gippsland region. More than 5,500 people have now attended these meetings. Meetings are scheduled for today in Genoa (Community Hall at 7pm) and Mallacoota (Mud Brick Hall at 7pm). The meetings are designed to assist local residents and visitors to the area with the current fire situation, and to put in place on-going community networks. Further community meetings will occur as necessary and will be advised locally.
· Liaison between local shires/DSE/DPI/CFA/PV and Victoria Police continues on a regular basis, as does liaison with NSW fire agencies. Local Community Updates continue to be circulated on a regular basis.
· The DSE website ( is being regularly updated with fire information, including community newsletters and maps.

8. Fire Statistics
Victoria has around 7.7 million hectares of parks and forests. In an average summer around 620 wildfires occur and these burn around 110, 000 hectares. To date this season 681 fires have occurred. These have burnt around 1,143,000 hectares. The 20-year average for this time of year is 368 fires, having burnt over 50, 000 hectares.

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.

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



FIRE SITUATION UPDATE,  04 February, 2003

There were few new fires reported today across the State. Tasmania Fire Service spokesman District Officer Ken Burns said: “We are really pleased with the level of cooperation we are receiving from the majority of Tasmanians during this very dry period. It’s a relief to our fire fighters, their families and their employers to not spend all their time fighting fires.”

Existing fires required considerable resources to prevent them escaping containment lines and control re-ignitions.The Picton fire now is largely contained and covers about 110Ha. Over 70 fire fighters worked in difficult country to cut new lines and relay water to hot spots. A helicopter was used to fill portable dams and ferry crews to inaccessible areas.

The Twelvetrees Range fire near Strathgordon remains contained with Parks and Wildlife Service crews patrolling and extinguishing hotspots and fires in the peat.The Lake Crescent fire remains within its boundaries but several peat fires are burning and needed continuous attention all day. Fire crews from both the north and south assisted local crews.

The Waverly fire now covers about 100Ha and is not threatening property. Crews worked all day to make containment lines and prevent the fire breaking out of the bush and moving towards houses. They were supported by bulldozers and a helicopter.The widespread smoke haze reported earlier today has cleared.

Further updates will be issued if significant changes occur.

Tasmania Fire Service (TFS)


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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