Fire aviation in Australia, graphically

Bloomberg graphic fires wildfires air tankers Australia
Bloomberg graphic showing the flight paths of North America based air tankers that travelled to Australia for their 2019-2020 wildfire season.

When a reporter for Bloomberg asked me if she could interview me I said OK, as long as I could have the rights to publish the article on my web site — Mira Rojanasakul said yes. I thought the article, written with Hayley Warren, was going to be primarily about air tankers, and those used in Australia in particular, but now that it has been published today I see that it also covers how climate change is affecting wildfires down under and in the United States.

In addition to being a writer, Ms. Rojanasakul is an accomplished graphics editor for Bloomberg. And that’s why I’m writing about this article and why you should check it out. She takes graphics to a higher level.

Here are some samples.

Bloomberg graphic fires wildfires air tankers Australia
Bloomberg graphic, showing the flight paths of various firefighting and mapping aircraft in Australia.

A very impressive large animated version of the graphic below is on the Bloomberg website.

Bloomberg graphic wildfires bushfires australia fire aviation
Between July 2019 and February 2020, nearly 40,000 flights by firefighting aircraft were taken over southeast Australia.
Bloomberg graphic fires wildfires air tankers Australia
The occurrence of wildfires in Washington, Oregon, and California showing how some of them occurred during the summer bushfire season in Australia. If aviation resources are going to be shared between North America and Australia, this information comes into play. Bloomberg graphic.
Bloomberg graphic fires wildfires air tankers Australia
Bloomberg graphic
Bloomberg graphic fires wildfires air tankers Australia
Bloomberg graphic

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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 “Fire aviation in Australia, graphically”

  1. Really well done. Astonishing the amount of data available to a creative thematic digital reporter. Good job.

  2. The last graphic looks incorrect. The bar chart on the left appears to have costs that are closer to total annual wildland firefighting costs, not aviation costs. This document ( estimates total aviation costs of $1.6 billion from 2007 to 2011 (page 2), and even the 2013 GAO report ( cites a total of $2.4 billion from 2007 through 2012 (page 3). The bar chart indicates costs around four times as high, which agrees with the common estimate that aviation comprises about 25% of annual wildland firefighting costs.

    Wildland fire policymakers desperately need better information on the sources and causes of wildland firefighting costs. The first reference I cited here does a terrible disservice by equating an escalating cost to Government with windfall profits, and presuming that the location of retardant drops in relation to boundaries like wilderness areas or communities alone is sufficient to determine the value of a drop. I would caution Wildfire Today readers against expecting that the Aerial Firefighting Use and Effectiveness study results will clarify the cost or cost-effectiveness question on its own – none of the information released on the study has ever identified cost as a specific area of study. Expect that further study would be necessary to incorporate AFUE findings into cost-effectiveness analyses.

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