On Sunday 22 September 1991 the State of Queensland in Australia experienced its worst forest plantation fire. Over a period of about eight hours, the fire burned its way through more than 900 hectares of Pinus elliottii with an estimated value of around AUD 3,000,000. The affected trees were planted between 1961 and 1973.
The fire occurred in the 37,000 hectares Toolara plantation area, about 200 kilometers north of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city. The Toolara plantation area is the largest single component of the 175,000 hectares of plantation softwoods managed by the Queensland Forest Service.
The fire is thought to have been caused by sparks flying off the broken spring of a trailer towed by a passing motor vehicle. Under the influence of a strong dry wind, the roadside grass fire quickly spread into adjacent forest made tinder dry through many months of virtually no rainfall. High temperatures, strong winds and low humidity helped to quickly fan the blaze into a crown fire with a peak rate of spread of about 2000 metres an hour, with spotting distances up to 1000 metres.
By late afternoon wind and temperature had dropped and 120 firefighting personnel were able to suppress the fire. It was finally contained by 9 o’clock in the evening. Total suppression costs exceeded AUD 80,000.
From: K.R.Hamwood Manager, Fire Protection Branch Address: Queensland Forest Service Department of Primary Industries Head Office, Forestry House 160 Mary Street GPO Box 944 AUS – Brisbane Q 4001