Fire in Western Australia’s Nuytsland Nature Reserve
A thick plume of brownish smoke billowed from the Western Australia coast and over the Great Australian Bight on 19 November 2009, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAs Aqua satellite passed overhead and captured this natural-color image. The area where MODIS detected actively burning fire is outlined in red.
This stretch of the southern Western Australia coastline is remote, and much of it is protected as the Nuytsland Nature Reserve. According to the state Department of Environment and Conservation, the fire was triggered by lightning in the second week of November, and it had burned about 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) as of 20 November 2009.
An uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving fire bearing down on a town north of Sydney has spurred fire chiefs into warning residents: ‘If you’re not prepared to fight it, leave immediately!’
The Rural Fire Service in the Hunter Valley, 100 miles north of Sydney, has urged residents of the town of Laguna (pop 700) to ensure that their homes have been safeguarded against fire – and if not, they should flee before the flames reach them.
The dire warnings, with fire chiefs using such phrases as ‘catastrophic’ and ‘highly dangerous’, came as New South Wales sweltered in temperatures that soared above 41C (106F) bringing back memories of last year’s devastating bush fires in Victoria which claimed 210 lives and destroyed more than 2,000 homes.
Thousands of residents in eastern Australia were on alert as out-of-control wildfires fanned by soaring temperatures and windy conditions threatened several towns
Hot winds fanned flames towards Laguna, resulting in the fire service warning that embers would be blown ahead of the fire, creating spot fires in different locations.
‘These spot fires may threaten your home earlier than the predicted main fire front,’ said a spokesman for the fire service, warning that the main fire could reach the town before midday London time.
‘If you are physically and mentally prepared to defend your home, get ready to take shelter as the fire impacts,’ said the spokesman.
Fire chiefs have been describing the wild fires as catastrophic – residents of one two have been told: ‘If you’re not prepared to fight it, leave immediately!’
The Rural Fire Service has gathered together all of its resources in order to try and slow down the flames, which are spreading at an alarming rate.
RFS spokesman Mark Sullivan said: ‘There will be over 1100 firefighters, with 400 fire trucks supported by 70 aircraft in action today,’ he said.
There has been controversy since the Victorian fires about whether homeowners should stay and hose down their homes as fires approach, or leave and let their houses burn.
A helicopter drops gallons of water on the fires in Rhylstone, Australia where temperatures of up to 41C have contributed to the country’s latest bush fire outbreak
Warnings have also been issued for residents near the central New South Wales town of Orange and for the small towns of Rylstone, Kandos, Clandulla and Glen Davis in outback New South Wales.
A special water-bombing aircraft called Isabelle, which can carry 2,000 gallons of water, has been brought in from the United States to tackle what is expected to be one of Australia’s worst bushfire summers.
Already more than 70 smaller aircraft are water-bombing bushfires across New South Wales. In addition 170 fire engines and more than 500 firefighters are tackling blazes across thousands of acres of bushland.
Two alpacas search for fodder in their burnt-out paddock after a bushfire swept through White Rock to the north west of Sydney
Officials said scorching temperatures, bone-dry bushland, high winds and lightning strikes have combined to create the greatest bushfire threat in 100 years.
New South Wales Premier Mr Nathan Rees said: ‘Worse is yet to come. This hot, dry weather is expected to continue over the summer.’
As strong winds fanned the flames near the small outback towns of Rylstone and Kandos, Anthony Clarke, a spokesman for the Rural Fire Service said the time had come when it was too late for people to risk driving away from the flames.
A fire engine disappears into a bushfire near the town of Rylstone, northwest of Sydney
‘We encourage people to now stay with their properties and work with firefighters to defend those homes,’ he said.
In the Victorian bushfires at the beginning of the year many people died in their cars when flames bore down on them.
Miss Bonnie Farrell, a resident of Kandos, a town of 1,800 people 200 miles north west of Sydney, said the strong winds were causing fear.
‘People are scared and I think the horrific winds at the moment make people even more on edge,’ she said. ‘The most important things are us and our pets. Material things can be replaced over time.
‘I’ve been a “bush girl” all my life and this is the first time I’ve felt threatened as an adult.’
The current situation in Australia is also covered by a number of media reports (see also media page):
We’ll be watching known and suspected arsonists: authorities (published by www.smh.com.au, 23 November 2009)
Army Reserves in Tasmania are training to provide assistance to the fire service this summer (published by www.abc.net.au, 23 November 2009)
Fire refuges rejected as CFA plays it safe (published by www.theage.com.au, 22 November 2009)
Government denies frontline job cuts (published by www.smh.com.au, 22 November 2009)
Insurers call for national bushfire code (published by www.smh.com.au, 22 November 2009)