This is a weekly update on the wildfire situation in Victoria, Australia, issued February 9, 2015.
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
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.”
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.
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…”
Fire near Lake Disston, Florida
Kenny Arnaldi took this photo Wednesday of a wildfire a mile south of Lake Disston, Florida.
Bushfire burns into Waroona in Western Australia
A large bushfire has burned into the city of Waroona in Western Australia about 100 kilometers south of Perth. (Map)
Below is an excerpt from an article at abc.net.au updated at about 4 p.m. MST, January 30, 2015:
An out-of-control bushfire is threatening lives and homes at Waroona in Western Australia, with up to three properties believed to be damaged so far. The blaze has entered the town, which is about 100 kilometres south of Perth, and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) has warned it is moving fast in a north-westerly direction. Embers are likely to be blown around homes, starting spot fires.
DFES duty assistant commissioner Chris Arnol said residents should take their location into consideration when planning how to respond.
“It depends on where they are. We’ve asked some residents to shelter in place which is the best option for them and others to evacuate to [an evacuation centre in the nearby town of Harvey],” he said. “People should have their fire plans ready and know what to do. We’ve got about 150 firefighters. We had 21 appliances on the fire and we’ve sent a further 24 from the metropolitan area.”
Oklahoma grass fires
Firefighters responding to a fire southwest of Tulsa observed a person setting one of eight grass fires that were burning in the area. More information is in the video below.
Update on the Kīlauea volcano lava flow
The image above released by US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory on January 29 shows the lava flow front from the Kīlauea volcano a mere 550 yards away from Highway 130 at its closest point. The distal tips are stalled, however “breakouts persist upslope,” writes USGS, “and these areas of activity can be spotted in this photograph by small smoke plumes where the lava is burning vegetation on the flow margins.”
Mississippi wildfire threatens natural gas facilities
A wildfire in Simpson County Mississippi (map) burned over an underground natural gas pipeline and came close to an above ground gas substation.
Below are excerpts from an article at WSMV:
“If it blows up down here, won’t nobody be left in Simpson County,” said resident Gurston McDonald.
McDonald lives just down the road from where a fire ripped through several acres of grass and forest, stopping just a few feet shy of a natural gas substation.
“All these gas lines coming through is a great concern,” added McDonald.
Simpson County EOC Director Glen Jennings said at least three fires broke out Thursday afternoon. However, the one off the highway posed the biggest danger to neighboring residents. Containing it also remained a challenge, because forestry officials can’t dig a fire line when there’s a gas line underneath.
“We don’t push on these gas lines. We just let it go, try to control it by water or some other means,” said Ben Vanderford with the Mississippi Forestry Commission. “We never know how deep those lines are, when we’re out there plowing these fire lines. These lines may be five or six feet under the ground, they might be five or six inches under the ground.”
And as night fell, flames spread again toward the substation, this time from a patch of trees about 200 feet away, with no fire line to stop it.