Due to fire conditions NSW Premier says “Stay away from bush lands tomorrow”

Fire danger in New South Wales predicted for Nov. 12 is being described by officials as “horrendous” and “catastrophic”

UPDATED at 1:31 p.m. PST November 11, 2019

5:47 p.m. PST November 10, 2019

Satellite photo smoke bush fires New South Wales
Satellite photo shows smoke from bush fires in New South Wales. Processed by Dakota Smith (Approximate date Nov. 8, 2019)

New South Wales has been experiencing hot, dry weather for several days, resulting in numerous bushfires that have burned more than 100 homes. On Monday November 11 local time there were 65 active fires in NSW with about half of those being uncontained, while 10 have risen to the “Watch and Act” alert level.

“We are in uncharted territory,” said NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. “We have never seen this many fires concurrently at emergency warning level.”

Weather forecast for Sydney, NSW
Weather forecast for Sydney, NSW, created Nov. 11, 2019 local time. Weatherzone. On Tuesday at 3 pm:  98F degrees, 24 mph winds, and relative humidity in the low teens.

Conditions are going to get even worse. The weather forecast for Tuesday, November 12 predicts fire danger that according to the NSW Rural Fire Service will be at the “catastrophic” level. Residents in some areas are being advised to evacuate before the extreme conditions hit even if there are no fires nearby.

On January 8, 2013 the bush fire danger in NSW ranged from Severe to Catastrophic, and  reached the Catastrophic level in Queensland November 28, 2018.

Many of the currently active fires are across the north coast and northern NSW areas and will not be contained by the time the extreme fire weather strikes on Tuesday. Under these conditions, the fires will spread quickly, threatening homes and lives. The fire danger will be as bad, if not worse, than that experienced on Friday as it will be across a much broader area including large population centers like Sydney.

New South Wales bushfire danger November 12, 2019
New South Wales bushfire danger for November 12, 2019. NSW RFS.

At a Monday press conference Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, “Stay away from bush lands tomorrow”. Due to the dangerous fire risk and extreme conditions she said she had declared a state of emergency. It is the first state of emergency in NSW since October, 2013, when major bushfires swept the state during similar weather conditions.

“Tomorrow we are facing horrendous conditions, life is at risk when it comes to catastrophic conditions,” said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at the press conference. “We cannot guarantee a fire truck at every home. We cannot guarantee an aircraft will be overhead when a fire is impacting on your property. We cannot guarantee that someone will knock on your door and give you a warning that there’s fires nearby. And we certainly cannot guarantee that despite our best efforts the technological tools available will deliver you a message in time.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons at the Monday press conference.

“We know the fires on the north coast are not going to be contained ahead of [Tuesday’s] weather which means those fires are going to spread, they are going to spread quickly, and they are going to spread aggressively,” the Commissioner continued. “The risk is real to pretty much any community in or around the proximity of all those fires burning on the north areas of New South Wales particularly given the forecast of hot temperatures and dry winds dominating out of the west or northwesterly areas. You can pretty much guarantee anybody to the east or southeast as a predominant pattern will certainly be at risk from the fires on the north coast tomorrow.”

100 homes destroyed in New South Wales bush fires

satellite photo smoke from bush fires New South Wales
The Suomi Joint Polar Satellite System captured this photo of smoke from bush fires in New South Wales, Australia, November 8, 2019. The red areas represent heat.

Large, rapidly spreading bushfires that swept through areas in Australia Friday are being described as “unprecedented”. Saturday morning, local time, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service  (NSW RFS) said at least 100 homes have recently burned in 42 fires that are still uncontained across the state. More than 30 people have been injured.

Saturday morning the NWS RFS said, “Fire activity has eased across some firegrounds. Nine fires are now at Emergency Warning and nine are at Watch and Act. We are still seeing erratic and dangerous fire behaviour across the remainder of fire grounds, which continues to pose a threat to homes.”

Queensland is also experiencing fires. Evacuation notices were issued Friday night for Lower Beechmont in the Gold Coast hinterland, Noosa North, and Thornton, west of Brisbane.

Most of the wildland firefighters in Australia are volunteers. Check out this video shot from inside a fire engine:

Former fire chiefs warn Australians about increasing climate threat

Pilliga Fire New South Wales
Pilliga Fire 60km southwest of Narrabri, New South Wales, Australia, January 2018.

An article in The Guardian says 20 former fire chiefs in Australia are warning that the country and the emergency services are not prepared for the escalating threat from bushfires caused by climate change.

Below is an excerpt:

In a statement issued before a federal election date is announced, 23 former emergency services leaders and senior personnel have called on both major parties to recognise the need for “national firefighting assets”, including large aircraft, to deal with the scale of the threat.

The document calls on the next prime minister to meet former emergency service leaders “who will outline, unconstrained by their former employers, how climate change risks are rapidly escalating”.

The group also wants the next government to commit to an inquiry into whether Australia’s emergency services are adequately resourced to deal with increased risks from natural disasters caused by climate change.

Last year, in Australia alone, the NSW fire season began in early August, a heatwave led to fires in rainforest areas of Queensland in early December, and forest in Tasmania’s world heritage area caught fire in January, Australia’s hottest month on record.

Fires Queensland satellite photo
Satellite photo of smoke from the fires in Queensland, Australia, November 26, 2018.

Bushfire east of Melbourne in Bunyip State Park doubles in size

The fire has grown to over 30,600 acres (12,400 HA)

satellite photo map bushfire east of Melbourne, Victoria
The satellite photo shows smoke created by the bushfires east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, March 3, 2019. The red dots represent heat. The white areas south and west of Melbourne are clouds. To the east is smoke.

The large bushfire about 65km east of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia has doubled in size during the last 24 hours. It is a result of four fires in Bunyip State Park merging and has now blackened about 12,400 HA (30,600 acres).

Emergency Management Victoria has downgraded the incident from an emergency alert to a Watch and Act that affects the following areas: Basan Corner, Beenak, Bunyip, Bunyip North, Cornucopia, Garfield, Garfield North, Gentle Annie, Labertouche, Longwarry North, Maryknoll, Nar Nar Goon, Tonimbuk, Tynong, Tynong North.

On Saturday and Sunday the wind direction changed several times pushing the fire in a variety of directions. This can be very dangerous for firefighters.

map bushfire east of Melbourne, Victoria
Map showing the location of the bushfire east of Melbourne, Victoria.

The video below at 1:30 captured Air Tanker 137, a Boeing 737, making a retardant drop.

Hot, dry, windy conditions spread wildfires east of Melbourne, Australia

A blaze in Bunyip State Park has burned over 15,000 acres

Wildfires in Victoria
Wildfires in Victoria east of Melbourne, March 3, 2019 local time. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite.

The weather in Victoria, Australia is causing multiple wildfires to spread rapidly endangering residents in some areas east of Melbourne. Presently there are 25 fires burning in the state. Fifteen of them are in eastern Victoria.

Four fires near Bunyip State Park, near Tonumbik, about 65km east of Melbourne, merged on Saturday into one blaze that has burned 6,280 hectares (15,500 acres) as of Sunday afternoon local time.

map wildfire Bunyip State Park in Victoria, Australia
Map showing the location of the wildfire in Bunyip State Park in Victoria, Australia. Vic Emergency map.

Officials warn that the fire in the state park is expected, after a wind shift, to move closer to Labertouche North and warned residents to be prepared to evacuate. Three homes have been destroyed in the fire so far.

Wildfire in Bunrip State Park
Wildfire in Bunyip State Park. Screengrab from 7 News Melbourne video.

At least one night-flying helicopter dropped water on the fire Saturday night until 3 a.m. local time. About 850 people, 120 fire trucks, and 20 aircraft will be working on the state park blaze Sunday.

Video of rotating convection column

rotating convection column
Screenshot from @StormCatMedia video below.

Most large convection columns of smoke rising over large or intense wildfires rotate to some degree. In the video below filmed near Melbourne, Australia, the speed of the playback has been increased, making it easier to notice the rotation. To confirm this, check out the car driving by at what appears to be over 250 miles per hour.

Thanks Mike. Very interesting!

As a bonus, here is another recent convection column in Australia — a very large one with condensation on top, referred to as a pyrocumulus cloud.