Royal Commission watches Black Saturday fire video

Royal Commission watches Black Saturday fire video

21 May 2009

published by

Australia —

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has heard how an engineer used his own video technology to watch live as bushfires raged out of control near Healesville on Black Saturday.

Simon Langdon’s company has been running a trial project for government agencies using video cameras attached to four fire towers in the Yarra Valley.

Mr Langdon told the hearing he was at home in Melbourne on Black Saturday when received a telephone call from his mother who lives in Healesville.

He used his computer to remotely swing one of the cameras towards the Murrindindi area where his mother had reported seeing smoke.

“I was devastated. I could see the size of the plume and I thought this is serious so I rang Mum right back,” Mr Langdon said.

Mr Langdon played a video to the Royal Commission showing “highlights” of the Black Saturday fires recorded by his company’s cameras.

The video showed smoke billowing from the direction of the Murrundindi fires that destroyed Marysville and from the direction of Kinglake.

It also showed embers flying through the air and explosions of flame.

Similar video technology is already used by VicRoads in Melbourne to record traffic incidents.

The cameras can be zoomed and rotated remotely using a computer.

The Royal Commission was told such technology could play an important role in future early warning systems.

Meanwhile, fire ecologist, Dr Kevin Tolhurst from the University of Melbourne has told the hearing the Black Saturday fires were so powerful that they created their own weather conditions.

He said the fires created their own microclimates, sometimes causing wind drafts of up to 120 kph which were powerful enough to snap trees.

He also said that most of the damage done by bushfires happens after the arrival of a cool change.

Dr Tolhurst said there was a severe change on February 7th which was “the worst situation we could have”.

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