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.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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

    1. They’re using a mixed fleet of helicopter tankers up to 9 tonne as well as fix winged water bombers. The difficulty with fires in this area is once the Karri forest becomes alight, no firefighting can stop it really. It’s the most intense firefront with flames more than 90ft high and bulldozers need to be used around the fire perimeter edges to only try and contain it.


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