Most of the homes in the Western Australia town of Yarloop were destroyed when a large bushfire marched through the area Thursday night.
Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Wayne Gregson said on Friday that 95 houses and numerous other public buildings burned, including the Steam Museum, the hotel, post office, town hall, and most of the school. There are no reports of fatalities.
The people that did not evacuate said many homes could have been saved but no water was available. The electrical power went out, which made it impossible to refill the town’s water tanks.
The remaining residents in Yarloop were going to evacuate to Pinjarra in a convoy of 30 vehicles protected on the journey by fire engines.
The latest community threatened by the Waroona Fire is the Harvey townsite, where the fire is 5 km northeast of the town and is moving toward the southwest. The effects of moderating weather have slowed the spread.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services reports that the fire has consumed 67,000 hectares (165,000 acres) and 121 homes, and is being fought by 250 firefighters, 50 appliances, air tankers, and helicopters. The fire perimeter is more than 138 miles.
The lightning caused fire was reported at 7:25 a.m. on January 6. It is being managed by an interagency Incident Management Team comprised of DFES, Parks and Wildlife, and local government personnel.
The Bear Mountain Hand Crew, a state crew in South Dakota, has released a video summarizing their 2015 season. Bear Mountain is a Type 2 IA crew is comprised of 22 firefighters with its primary function being hazardous fuels reduction on state and private lands within the Black Hills. The crew is available for in and out-of-state assignments and has responded to various all risk incidents throughout the U.S. since its inception.
A pyrocumulus cloud is produced by the intense heating of the air from the surface. The intense heat induces convection, which causes the air mass to rise to a point of stability, usually in the presence of moisture. Phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and occasionally industrial activities can induce formation of this cloud.
A 31,000 hectare (76,600 acre) bushfire has forced the evacuation of several communities south of Perth in Western Australia. The fire is moving in a southwesterly direction through the areas of Waroona, Harvey, Lake Clifton, Yarloop, and Preston Beach. (map)
On Friday the forecast includes 60 km/hr (37 mph) winds out of the northeast.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services warned that for several areas it was too late for residents to leave and they should shelter in their homes. Some people in Preston Beach waded into the Indian Ocean where they were taken on board boats.
The DFES reported that the fire, unofficially called the Waroona Fire, is being fought by over 200 firefighters, 48 appliances, and 25 heavy machines. Air tankers and helicopters have also been assigned.
DFES Incident Controller Greg Mair said the South Western Highway could be closed for a few weeks because a wooden bridge at Samson Brook had sustained severe damage.
The lightning caused fire was reported at 7:25 a.m. on January 6. In the area where it crossed Forrest Highway there was a report that the flame height was 50 meters (164 feet).
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Wednesday that in 2015, wildfires burned a record 10,125,149 acres across the United States, surpassing the previous record set in 2006. More than half of those acres were in one state, Alaska, with 5.1 million blackened acres, which was more than quadruple their average of 1.2 million and was the most acres burned since 2004 (6.6 million).
In 2015, more than 50 fires exceeded 50,000 acres each; of those, 20 exceeded 100,000 acres. In 2015, more than 4,500 homes and other structures burned in wildfires and a total of 13 wildland firefighters, including 7 U.S. Forest Service firefighters, lost their lives in the line of duty.
The Secretary renewed the call for Congress to pass the bi-partisan Wildfire Disaster Funding Act. The cost of the Forest Service’s wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one-week period during the height of suppression activity in August. With a record 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget dedicated to fire suppression activities, compared to just 16 percent in 1995, the Forest Service’s firefighting budget was exhausted in 2015, forcing USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the high cost of battling blazes.
Jennifer Brown has produced another excellent film about wildland fire management. For this one she concentrated on the Last Dance wildfire in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades in south Florida. It features an informative interview with Jon Wallace who was the Incident Commander of the fire shortly before he transferred to a new job as Deputy Regional Fire Management Coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta.
Land managers should commission quality film making like this more often — it can result in improved public understanding and support for what they do.