At least four dead in Western Australia fire

Police in Western Australia have confirmed that four people have been killed in a vegetation fire in Western Australia on the south coast near Esperance. It is feared that two more may have also died.


…Fire and Emergency Services Regional Superintendent Trevor Tasker said the blaze at Salmon Gums was the worst he had ever seen.

“The wind and weather conditions … there was no stopping it,” he said.

Two of those killed are believed to be a farmer and one of his workers from Salmon Gums.

Superintendent Tasker said they are thought to have they crashed a car while trying to flee their farm.

“We believe that may be the case, but we really can’t say for sure,” he said.

There are four fires burning in the region, but the two most serious are at Grass Patch and Salmon Gums, 100 kilometres north of Esperance and at Stockyard Creek, 25 kilometres east of the town…

Fire Aviation has an article posted today about large air tankers from North America being deployed to Australia for their 2015/2016 summer bushfire season.

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

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.

Wildfire briefing, January 30, 2015

Fire near Lake Disston, Florida

Fire near Lake Disston FL

Kenny Arnaldi took this photo Wednesday of a wildfire a mile south of Lake Disston, Florida.

Bushfire burns into Waroona in Western Australia

 bushfire threatening Waroona

A bushfire threatening Waroona, about 100 kilometers south of Perth.

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 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
Kīlauea volcano
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.


Wildfire briefing, January 14, 2015

Hawaii’s Kīlauea volcano lava ignites brush fire

A lava flow from the Kīlauea volcano in Hawaii ignited a brush fire on Tuesday that burned 270 acres. It was surrounded by fire breaks, but at 5:30 p.m. local time a dozer was working to clean up the existing break and construct a new line closer to the head of the fire. According to a Hawaii County Civil Defense update, the brush fire was west of Highway 130, about 1.5 miles from the Aina­loa subdivision. The agency said Tuesday afternoon that neither the brush fire nor the stalled lava flow pose an immediate threat to communities.

Granite Mountain Hotshots’ families treated to European boat trip

From the Daily Courier:

The families of Prescott’s fallen [Granite Mountain] Hotshots participated in a unique trip over the holidays. They were given an opportunity to see and visit the historic sites along Europe’s Danube River while finding solace amongst others who also have experienced the tragic loss of loved ones in recent U.S. tragedies.

Family members of the Hotshots were joined by family members of the victims of the 9/11 tragedy and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire on June 30, 2013 in the worst wildland firefighting tragedy in more than 80 years…

The paper said 19 family members participated in the trip.

News from Australia: