GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

12 February 2003

Bushfires Raging in Southeast Australia


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This true-color ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer  (MODIS) image was capturedby the Terra satellite on 11 February 2003.

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This true-colorModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer  (MODIS) image was captured by theAqua satellite on 11 February 2003.

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This true-colorModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer  (MODIS) image was captured by the Terra satellite on 12 February 2003.

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:

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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

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



Total Fire Bans, Thursday, 13 February 2003 

– The Commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service has declared a Total Fire Ban in the following Weather Forecast Districts:
North West Plains, North West Slopes, Lower Western, Southern Tablelands.
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, Wednesday, February 12, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Thursday, 13 February 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”

Snowy Mountains Fire Facts Summary Wednesday, 12 February 2003, 07:30 hours

Wednesday, 12 February 2003 – Because of mild weather in recent days fire fighters have been able to contain most active fires in the region and are now engaged primarily in mop up and patrol. Authorities are confident that the bushfire situation, which has existed over the past month, has eased considerably but warned that without substantial rain conditions can deteriorate quickly increasing the chance of a return of extreme fire weather. There is still some active fire, which is being attacked by ground crews supported by helicopter waterbucketing.

A total of 30 new fires begun by lightning on Monday between Tooma (north of Khancoban) and Gundagai have now been contained due to a quick and well coordinated response by all agencies involved in the operation. Only one of these fires in the Tumbalong area near Gundagai is proving difficult although Tumut Fire Control is confident of containing this fire shortly.

The Alpine Way, Guthega Road and the Elliot Way have been reopened this morning.
Many tourist facilities in centres around the Park, as well as the resort areas within the Park are now open to visitors. Some facilities are still closed. Visitors should call 1800 004 439 for details.

Overnight a backburn was carried out south of the village and mopped up. This will be continued today. Motorists are advised to slow down when driving the Alpine Way at Thredbo because of the presence of fire fighting vehicles. Waterbucketing continued yesterday south of the village.

Numbla Vale/Paupong
This area has been quiet and crews have been engaged in mop up and patrol.

Barry Way
Crews concentrated on deepening containment lines. A backburn was put in around the Bakers Creek area supported by helicopter waterbucketing. A large contingent of crews patrolled the area overnight.

Snowy Plains
Mostly mop up and patrol however there was some fire activity late in the afternoon with a flare up. This has been contained.

Crackenback Range
Some active fire yesterday which was dealt with by helicopter waterbucketing.

Kosciuszko Road
No active fire at Smiggins. Patrol and mop up.

Hot spots in the Mt Trooper area on the western edge of Byadbo were waterbucketed and supported by ground crews.

Continued mop up and patrol with a dozer breaking up remnants of windrows at Beloko.

This fire has been reasonably quiet and crews are now continuing mop up and patrol.

Mop up and patrol. Aerial waterbucketing of hot spots.

All other areas where fire fighters have been working in recent days – Ingebyra, Rocky Plains, Charlotte Pass – are now contained and being mopped up.

Victoria border area
Authorities are investing the possibilities of direct attack on the Sugarloaf fire. There was some deepening of containment lines yesterday using aerial incendiary. A backburn southeast of Sugarloaf is continuing. Backburning was hampered yesterday because of higher humidity over the past 24 hours. The WB Line fire is now contained. The Mount Ellery fire remains around 3 hectares. Ground crews are gaining access.

Dry and warm. Light to moderate west to northwest winds tending fresh to strong at higher elevations, moderating later.
Thursday: Dry
Friday: Isolated showers/storms
Saturday: Warm. Chance of showers/storms

Listen to Snowy Mountains 2XL, Snow FM and your local ABC.
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 Wednesday February 12 2003 7.30am (Day 36)

Current Summary

· Mild conditions again yesterday assisted the efforts of fire crews. Backburning and control line construction continued, but cooler, moister conditions last night prevented further backburning. Over 130 kilometres of the southern edge of the fire, through forested country with difficult access, remains to be contained.
· Fire controllers remain focussed on attempting to contain as much of the southern edge of the fire as possible, ahead of hot windy weather predicted on the weekend. The northern edge of the fire remains behind containment lines, and strengthening work continues.
· Nineteen New Zealand Alpine fire specialists will head home this evening after nearly three weeks of assisting with fire efforts near Swifts Creek. They depart with the considerable thanks of the local residents and their Victorian colleagues. Another contingent of New Zealand Alpine fire specialists will arrive in Melbourne for orientation and deployment, later today.
· To date, the Eastern Victorian fires have now burnt around 1.07 million hectares of Victorian parks and forests. This figure includes the large number of lightning-caused fires that were contained in the first weeks of January.

Current Going Fires

· The main Eastern Victorian fire, which stretches from Mt Buffalo in the west, to the NSW border and to the Deddick area in East Gippsland, has now burnt almost 1.04 million hectares. The northern section of the main fire remains contained, line strengthening and patrol continues.
· In the south there are no immediate threats to private property but asset protection works continue along with activities to contain large sections of the southern edge.
· A lightning-caused fire that started in remote country last Friday near Mt Ellery (near Goongerah) has so far burnt an area of three hectares.

Weather in eastern victoria

Today: Warm to hot (mid 30s) and mainly sunny day with light W/NW winds. Southerly change late afternoon to evening.

Thursday: Local morning drizzle then fine and mild. Isolated afternoon thunderstorms in the east.

Beyond: Very warm to hot with winds tending N/NE. Isolated thunderstorms and lightning are possible late in the day on both Saturday and Sunday. Fire danger likely to be very high to extreme.

Resources on the Eastern Fires

· Personnel currently involved:
– Around 2000 from the Government agencies
– approximately 900 CFA from outside the Region supporting local volunteer brigades
– 36 Australian Defence Force
– 25 New South Wales
– 8 Tasmanian
– 30 New Zealand
– 35 USA

· Around 40 aircraft, over 250 specialised vehicles, at least 100 bulldozers, and a major commitment from the Gippsland based timber industry.

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, local Catchment Management Authorities, the Army Reserve, local municipalities, Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board (MFB), New Zealand fire and conservation agencies, Red Cross, Rural Ambulance Victoria, South Australian Country Fire Service and Parks Service, Tasmanian Fire Service, St John Ambulance, State Forests New South Wales, State Emergency Service, Victoria Police, WICEN (Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network) and several United States land management agencies.

Threats to private property and road closures

· For details of currently confirmed property losses please call CFA on 13 15 99. In total around 75,000 hectares of farming land has been burnt, 39 houses, over 200 other buildings and nearly 11, 000 stock. Losses continue to be assessed.

· Towong Shire is maintaining community information phone lines.
Community Information
· Community meetings continue to be held throughout the area. To date 73 community meetings have been conducted in the North East and Gippsland, with nearly 7,000 people attending. Meetings are scheduled for:
· today in Heyfield (Heyfield Memorial Hall at 7.30pm), Johnsonville (Hall at 7pm), and in Swifts Creek (Swifts Creek Hall at 5:45pm with a BBQ afterwards);
· tomorrow in Lakes Entrance (Lakes Entrance Mechanics Institute, Mechanic Street at 4pm and 7:30pm) and in Ensay (Ensay Hall at 5:45pm with a BBQ afterwards); and
· on Friday in Licola (Licola Lions Club Camp at 7.30pm).
· 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.

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 706 fires have occurred. These have burnt almost 1.30 million hectares. The 20-year average for this time of year is 334 fires, having burnt over 51,768 hectares.

Source: DSE/DPI

CSA Fire Update

Glenrowan Fire Update 12 Feb 6:30pm

CFA advises residents in the Glenrowan area that the Glenrowan fire has now been contained.
Firefighters will be on scene to complete the considerable blacking out required.

Traralgon Fires Update 12 Feb 6:30pm

CFA advises residents of Traralgon West of a fire in the area.

The fire is travelling in a north-easterly direction.

Residents in the areas of Traralgon West and the area of Latrobe Valley Hospital may be threatened by this fire.

The Princes Highway has been closed between Tramway Road and Kosciusko Road.

Residents in these areas should expect smoke and burning embers to reach their property and are advised to patrol their houses to find and extinguish any burning embers that may be landing.

Power lines along the railway have been shut down.

CFA advises road users to remain outside the area affected by the fire. Residents of the area not currently at home should not at this time try to return to the area as access is limited and the roads may not be safe.

Fires Update 12 Feb 18:15

CFA firefighters are involved with a fire in a Blue Gum plantation on the Princes Highway, between Traralgon and Morwell.

CFA has 20 trucks and 100 firefighters on scene, with water bombing aircraft being brought in to assist firefighting efforts.

Motorists should be aware that the fire is burning alongside the Princes Highway. The Freeway has been blocked at the Traralgon end and traffic is being directed through Morwell. A number of other roads in the area are also affected at present.

It is believed the fire may have been started by a truck.
Community warnings are being broadcast to local radio for residents and travellers regarding the fires.
Several power lines in the area have been isolated by the power industry.
CFA advises people living in the areas of Hazelwood, Sanders, Mattingly Hill, Clark and Walshes Roads and Firman Lane should put their emergency plans into action.

CFA and DSE continue constructing control lines in Gippsland.
Work continues backburning a 60km line on Yalmy track (approximately 40kms from Dargo).

Fires in this area are regarded as controlled except near the containment lines south of Buffalo where spot fires have occurred in the Upper Buffalo River and Mt Selwyn areas.

Backburning continues in the Tubbut and Deddick areas.

Source: CFA (Country Fire Authority) 

Further informationand 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.

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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