Tasmania fire requires evacuations

map fire George Town, Tasmania

The red dots represent heat produced by a fire in northern Tasmania east of George Town, March 4, 2015.

A 1,700-acre wildfire in northern Tasmania, an island state south of the Australian mainland, forced dozens of residents to evacuate Wednesday afternoon, local time. The fire started Tuesday afternoon during strong winds and was still burning actively on Wednesday, prompting firefighters to call for Bomber 390 (aka Tanker 131), the C-130H air tanker that has been stationed across the Bass Strait at Avalon, Victoria during the down under summer. This map shows the approximate location of the drop made by the air tanker east of George Town, Tasmania.

Authorities said on Wednesday the fire was expected to flare up again on Thursday, when winds are expected to pick up.

‘This fire will be difficult to control,’ the Tasmania Fire Service said in a statement. ‘Burning embers, falling on the township of Lefroy will threaten (homes) before the main fire.’

flight path of Tanker 131

The flight path of Tanker 131 to and from a fire in Tasmania. Down under it is known as Bomber 390.


NSW sends 150 firefighters to assist in Western Australia

Firefighters at Sydney airport

This photo was posted at about 3 p.m. MST, February 2 (U.S. time) on the Facebook page for Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service in Australia. The firefighters from New South Wales are flying to Western Australia for five days to help with the large fires currently burning there. The latest report is that  80,500 hectares (197,000 acres) have been burnt in the blaze near Northcliffe.

Here is how the above photo was described:

Nice to catch up with our interstate fire fighting assistance team at Sydney Airport this morning, flying out to assist their colleagues in WA. 150 fire fighters and management specialists will be in WA for next 5 days and returning home Friday. The team incorporates members from NSW RFS, FR, NPWS, Forestry and Ambulance and are partnered with their ACT colleagues. Thanks again to all involved.

A day earlier, Commissiner Fitzsimmons wrote:

NSW RFS State Operations is currently coordinating the deployment of approximately 170 Fire Fighters, Incident Management and Specialist personnel to assist colleagues in Western Australia. This team will consist of personnel from NSW (NSWRFS, FRNSW, NPWS, FCNSW & ASNSW) as well as the ACT and NT. In addition to this request received last night, we have also provided an Air Crane, 16 tonnes of foam and 44 tonnes of retardant in recent days. Thanks everyone for offering to assist, our interstate colleagues certainly appreciate it. For latest information on WA bush fires follow this link


Western Australia bushfire burns 143,000 acres

Satellite photo of two fires in Western Australia. The southern most one is near Northcliffe. Photo at 10:30 UTC, February 4, 2015. SSEC.

Satellite photo of two fires in Western Australia. The southern most one is near Northcliffe. Photo at 10:30 UTC, February 4, 2015. SSEC. (click to enlarge)

Below is an excerpt from an article at http://www.news.com.au/:

FIREFIGHTERS have been working around the clock for the past five days to protect lives and homes from the Northcliffe bushfire.

But despite their best efforts, the blaze has doubled since Tuesday night and has destroyed more than 58,000 hectares [143,000 acres].

Residents in Northcliffe and the subdivisions of Parkview, Bracken Rise and Double Bridge in the Shire Manjimup have been told their town sites are “undefendable” and they must leave, advice that most have heeded.

For people in Windy Harbour, it’s too late to leave. They’ve been told to seek shelter at the beach. A Department of Fire and Emergency spokesman said people at Windy Harbour might have to leave by boat or helicopter.

The blaze is frequently changing direction because of wind changes.

“It has been swinging around a lot,” one of the 40 or so people still in Northcliffe, general store manager Graham Munro, told Fairfax radio.

“The wind is blowing away from the town at the moment, so it’s pretty good, but there’s still ash around.

“Yesterday for a while it was heading straight at the town … across land that had previously been burnt, but then of course it swung around took off like a rocket for the coast again.”


West Australian town of Northcliffe is “indefensible” from approaching bushfire

Northcliffe bushfire

In this NASA image acquired February 1, 2015 smoke from a large fire burning near Northcliffe in Western Australia can be seen being pushed into the Indian Ocean by a strong northeast wind. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fire. A high-res (2 MB) version of the photo is available.

All 400 residents of the town of Northcliffe in Western Australia have been urged to evacuate due to a nearby bushfire that has burned 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) 350 kilometers (217 miles) southeast of Perth. The fire has been burning for five days pushed primarily by a northeast wind. However the wind has shifted and is now coming out of the south and is expected to change on Wednesday to a southwest wind, both of which will push the fire closer to the town, and ultimately change the direction of spread by 180 degrees. In addition, predicted thunderstorms could bring stronger, more unpredictable winds that could result in extreme fire behavior, complicate fire suppression efforts, and compromise the safety of firefighters.

Below are excerpts from an article at ABC.NET in Australia:

…Meanwhile authorities have told residents who chose to remain in Northcliffe, about 350 kilometres south of Perth, there was no prospect of bringing the blaze threatening the town under control in the near future. Smoke and embers were blown back into the small community by a southerly wind, with the fire front about 5 kilometres from the town as of 3:00pm.

Firefighters battled to protect the western line of the blaze to try to stop it sweeping through the town, but it will be pressured by a southerly wind further into the afternoon and evening. The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) said a prevailing south-westerly wind forecast for Wednesday could be potentially catastrophic as the northern flank of the fire would be opened up to blowback.

Firefighters said they had no resources to deal with the eastern end of the fire, where the blaze started, which could become the front of the fire in the case of a wind change.

About 240 firefighters were at the scene, as were 60 support staff. One property – an unoccupied farmhouse – was destroyed by the flames on Monday.

The video below is a report from the field about the fire.

The next video includes maps of several fires in Western Australia.


Australian firefighters bond with Prescott FD after Yarnell Hill tragedy

Below is an excerpt from an article in the West Australian written by Tim Clarke:


“It was one of the worst bushfire tragedies in US history with the deaths of 19 members of the legendary Granite Mountain Hotshots.

But from that 2013 tragedy in the hills of Arizona has emerged an unlikely bond, which will be affirmed this year when members of the Preston Road Bushfire Brigade near Collie [Australia] travel across the world to offer their support and learn from their experiences.

The firefighters were battling brutal fires on Yarnell Hill, north-west of Phoenix, on June 30, 2013.

The fires were started by a lightning strike and rapidly spread to about 100ha, destroying more than 100 structures and trapping and killing all 19 crew. [When contained, the fire had burned 8,400 acres.]

The disaster shocked the firefighting world, including Collie-based volunteer Kevin Bazeley, who sent an email to his counterparts at the Prescott Fire Department in Arizona expressing sorrow and condolences. Bosses there were so touched that the message was read at a memorial for the dead men.

Two years on, Mr Bazeley and three colleagues have been invited by the city to confirm their international friendship officially.

“Their loss was almost unbelievable, and I just felt I had to tell them the whole world was thinking of them,” Mr Bazeley said…”