GFMC: Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

Bush and Forest Fires in Australia

14 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:

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

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



Total Fire Bans, Friday, 14 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

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, Thursday, February 13, 2003 until MIDNIGHT Friday, 14 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 Thursday, 13 February 2003, 07:30 hours

Thursday, 13 February 2003 – As predicted, hotter and drier weather yesterday saw significant fire activity behind containment lines in the Barry Way, Bakers Gully, Little Paupong and Thredbo areas. Some flare ups required intensive waterbucketing and additional attention from ground crews patrolling these areas.

One new fire was reported yesterday on the Merambego Ridge in the Corrowong area west of Delegate. A containment line was constructed and backburning occurred overnight to secure the fire’s edge.

Aerial infrared technology is being used on all firelines to identify hot spots and assist ground crews with mopping up activities.

While much progress has been made in containing fires and no communities are ‘on alert’ residents should remain aware of fire activity. A deterioration in weather could still see renewed fire activity in some areas. Today’s forecast for the region indicates high to very high fire danger.

The bush fire emergency declared under Section 44 of the Rural Fires Act in the Tumut area was lifted yesterday and only one crew will be required to patrol the fire in Tumblong Nature Reserve near Gundagai. Air reconnaissance of the general area will take place during this afternoon.

Many tourist facilities in centres around Kosciuszko National 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.

Backburning was conducted along the Alpine Way east of Thredbo Village to reduce fire risk and secure containment lines. Direct attack on the fire with helicopter waterbucketing continues on the ridge south of Thredbo. Motorists are advised to slow down when driving the Alpine Way near Thredbo because of the presence of fire fighting vehicles.

Further helicopter waterbucketing may be needed on hot spots on the Crackenback Range, with the possibility of further backburning continuing south of Bullock Creek.

Numbla Vale / Paupong
Some flare ups occurred in the Little Paupong area under the locally dangerous fire weather conditions. Backburning will occur today if conditions allow. Mop up and patrol will continue in both areas.

Barry Way/Moonbah
Further backburning has occurred around the Bakers Creek area, supported by helicopter waterbucketing, to consolidate the containment line. A large contingent of crews patrolled the area overnight.

Snowy Plains/Kalkite Mountain
There was minimal fire activity in these areas yesterday. Fire crews will continue with mop up and patrol today.

Kosciuszko Road
Mopping up and patrol to continue.

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

A new fire was reported on Merambego Ridge west of Corrowong. A containment line was constructed around the fire and backburning completed to secure the fire’s edge. Crews will patrol the area today and continue with mopping up.

Generally minimal fire activity. This area will continue to be patrolled.

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
The Sugarloaf fire has been subject to direct attack with ground crews and aircraft and this will continue today. The Mt Ellery fire covers an area of 10 hectares and is being attacked with waterbucketing, retardant and bulldozers. Further consolidation of backburning lines at Tubbut and Deddick has occurred. A NSW State Forest task force will be working out of Orbost today. There are 2900 personnel involved with the Victorian fires, including crews from NSW, Tasmania and the United States.

Thursday: A Fire Weather Warning has been issued for High to Very High fire danger. A Total Fire Ban is in force. Chance of afternoon showers. Very warm to hot. Light to moderate southwest to southeast winds.
Friday: Isolated afternoon showers/thunderstorms. Warm to hot. Northwest to northeast winds.
Saturday: Isolated afternoon showers / thunderstorms. Warm to hot. Northwest to northeast winds.
Sunday: Scattered showers / thunderstorms . Very warm. North to northwest winds. 

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 Friday February 14 2003 7:30am (Day 38)

Current Summary

· The far western edge of the main fire (to the south of Mt Buffalo), has continued to cause concern to fire crews. Clear weather enabled intense use of aerial water bombing to assist containment of spot overs in the Barry Range, south west of Mt Selwyn.
· Some 650 kilometres of the southern edge of the fire remains to be contained, between the area south of Mt Buffalo, and Tubbut in far east Gippsland.
· Milder weather continued throughout yesterday, assisting crews in important backburning and containment line construction prior to the weekend.
· Visibility over the fire was clear for the second day in a row. Most aircraft are deployed to the far western edge of the fire, near Mt Buffalo.
· The infra-red scanning aircraft were both able to gather detailed fire location data yesterday, which will assist fire managers considerably.
· To date, the Eastern Victorian fires have burnt nearly 1.08 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 Tubbut area in East Gippsland, is still active and has burnt nearly 1.05 million hectares (this is nearly equivalent to the area within a 60 kilometre radius around Melbourne GPO).
· Spot overs into private land near Cobungra and Bindi have been successfully rounded up.
· The Mt Ellery fire near Goongerah (East Gippsland), in the Big River Reference Area started last Friday and has so far burnt an area of forty hectares. This fire remains active and work will continue today utilising bulldozers and waterbombing aircraft, weather permitting, to contain the fire.

Weather in the north-east and east gippsland

Today: Fine. Warm to hot and mostly sunny with light wind.
Saturday: Warm to hot with cloud increasing. Patchy rain and isolated thunderstorms later.
Sunday: Rain areas and isolated thunderstorms. Possible local heavy falls.

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

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 711 fires have occurred. These have burnt over 1.30 million hectares. The 20-year average for this time of year is 340 fires, having burnt over 51,815 hectares.

Source: DSE/DPI

CSA Fire Update

Bogong (South) Fires Update 14th Feb 7pm

A summary of current activity in the area

Dargo Area Fires

A spotover in the Jones sector prompted a fall back to Murdering Spur overnight with an extra 1000 ha conceded.
Backburning is continuing west along Jeff Spur and also along the Brewery Creek track.
Patrolling, blacking out and deepening the backburn is also underway in the High Plains sector.

Swifts Creek Area Fires

The priority tasks for today were at Livingston, Mt delusion and Mt Stawell. Firefighters will continue work on control line construction and backburning. Fire burning into grasslands still has the potential to continue to threaten private land.

Orbost Area Fires

Very little activity overnight with patrolling and backburning continuing into today at Bowens Track.. Handline construction linking St Helena’s track to the Snowy River has been completed.

In the Mt Ellery area,tracking continues supported by water bombing. Backburning on theStaircase/Moonkan north sectors ceased due to safety concerns caused by deteriorating track conditions and unpredictable fire behaviour. Yalmy Road consolidation continues.

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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