Fires in Australia

Fires in Australia

11 February 2009

Bushfires in southeastern Australia turned deadly over the first weekend of February 2009. Out-of-control fires raced into small communities and towns in Victoria, and more than 100 people had died as of February 9, according to news reports. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC News) reported that many of those who died had remained to protect their homes. Among the most devastated communities were those in the Kinglake area and Marysville. As of February 9, firefighters were expressing concern about the increased activity of the fire around the town of Dederang, southwest of Lake Hume.
This pair of images shows the Barry Mountains of central Victoria on 9 February 2009. The image at top is a natural-color (photo-like) view captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Places where the sensor detected active fire are outlined in red. The lower image is the same scene shown in false color, using visible, near-infrared, and shortwave infrared light. Burned areas are brick red, and places of intense heat—often a sign of open flame in this kind of image—are glowing pink. Smoke turns a transparent blue, which makes it easier to see the ground.
Fire is a regular occurrence in the forests and grasslands of southeastern Australia, even in the absence of people. In the hot, dry summer months, vegetation dries out; lightning triggers many natural wildfires. However, in the past decade, the area has experienced several severe droughts, and in late January and early February, parts of South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales were also paralyzed by an exceptional heatwave. Conditions were primed for devastating fires, some of which appear to have been started by lighting and others, according to news reports, by arson. The event was the worst fire disaster in Australia’s history.

Bushfires in Southeast Australia, 10 February 2009:

The high-resolution image provided above is at MODIS’ full spatial resolution (level of detail) of 250 meters per pixel.

(source: earth observatory)

Overview maps on fire locations and incident status:

State Summary Overview of 10 February 2009, 0130 hrs

Beechworth Complex Media Map, 10 February 2009

Kinglake Complex Media Map, 10 February 2009

The current situation in Australia is covered by a number of detailed reports (see GFMC Media web page):

  • GFMC:Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) proposing the establishment of fire shelters in bushfire-prone communities (interview by Sueddeutsche Zeitung, given at 10 February 2009, to be published) <in German>

  • Australia: More towns under threat from bushfires (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: UN chief “deeply saddened” about bushfire deaths in Australia (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: Asbestos threat hampers search for bushfire victims (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: Fire Conditions Comparable To Infernos Of ’98 (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: Winds still causing problems in Victoria (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: Officials fear 300 may have died as crews still fight Victoria bush fires (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia: Architect calls for bunkers in fire zone homes11 February 2009 (published by, 11 February 2009)

  • Australia:Australia Fears More Than 200 Dead In Bushfires (published by, 11 February 2009)

Video coverage of the Australia fires of February 2009:

Further Information on the Fire Situation in Australia:

SA Country Fire Service  Near-Real Time Wildland Fire Monitoring  Current weather situation, forecasts, fireweather Further Information Australian and New Zealand links Background information Recent Media Highlights on Fire, Policies, and Politics

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