Bicycle with electric motor starts fire in Australia

bicycle fire battery Australia
Image from 9News video.

Until today I have never heard of a bicycle igniting a vegetation fire. You would think that a road bike being used on a highway would be one of the modes of transportation least likely to start a wildfire.

It turns out, if that bike is modified with an after market wheel hub using a battery-powered electric motor all bets are off.

bicycle fire battery Australia
The battery. Image from 9News video.

On Monday 79-year old Gary Ryan was riding his Pinarello Dogma F8 retrofitted with an electric hub motor when the device caught fire on Corkscrew Road in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia (map). (The device may have been similar to this one.) After receiving a slight burn on his leg he got off the bike and watched as flames reported to be 10-feet high shot out of the battery. The fire partially melted the bike’s frame and spread into the vegetation along the highway. Mr. Ryan and other riders backed away as CO² cartridges exploded that he carried on the bike for inflating tires.

Firefighters that happened to be working on a fire nearby responded quickly and knocked the blaze down after it spread for about 100-feet.

Residents and emergency crews in Australia have been on edge for the last four days as they deal with record heat approaching 50C (122F) in some areas.

As more devices used out of doors are battery-powered we are going to be increasingly hearing about fires like this. Wildfire Today has already written about two vegetation fires that were started by drones.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Paula.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Prescribed burning in Western Australia

Their Rx season is usually from early spring to early summer.

prescribed burning in Western Australia
Smoke from a prescribed fire in the Warren Region of Western Australia. Screenshot from the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife Service video.

The prescribed burning season in the Warren Region of Western Australia usually winds down this time of the year during the early summer months. Their wildfire season typically extends from October to May.

The official designations of the seasons south of the equator in Australia are laid out like this:

  • Summer: December – February
  • Autumn: March – May
  • Winter: June – August
  • Spring: September – November
Map Warren Region Western Australia
Map: Warren Region of Western Australia. Click to enlarge.

In addition to telling us about the prescribed burning video (below), Dr. Lachlan McCaw, Senior Principal Research Scientist with Western Australia’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, sent us an overview of of their prescribed burning program in the Warren Region:


The Region is situated in the southwest part of Western Australian and features extensive areas of native vegetation, including designated wilderness areas and the state’s tallest forests. The region is also home to iconic tourism destinations, a rich and diverse agricultural industry, and unique conservation values associated with the highest rainfall area of Western Australia.

Public lands within the region are managed by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions Parks and Wildlife Service and include 0.65 million hectares (1.60 million acres) of national parks and nature reserves, 0.25 million hectares (0.617 million acres) of state forest and timber reserves, and a lesser area of unallocated crown land and unmanaged reserves.

Southwest Western Australia has a Mediterranean type climate with warm dry summers and the fire season typically extends from October to May. Open forests and heathlands become dry enough to burn in early spring whereas tall dense forest types may retain moisture into the early months of the austral summer.

Prescribed fire is an important tool for land management in southwest Western Australia and in the Warren Region the annual burning program undertaken by the Parks and Wildlife Service may vary from 30,000 ha (74,000 a.) to 70,000 ha (172,000 a.). Prescribed burning is undertaken for a number of purposes including:

  • To mitigate the risk and severity of bushfires and assist in the protection of lives, property and infrastructure by reducing the build up of vegetation fuels;
  • To maintain biodiversity and habitat diversity;
  • To reestablish vegetation after timber harvesting and disturbance by mining operations;
  • To understand the behaviour of fire and its interactions with the environment.

Firefighters from NSW assist with Tasmania bushfire

Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald

Firefighters in New South Wales have traveled across the Bass Strait to assist their brothers and sisters in Tasmania. The five personnel will be working with the Tasmania Fire Service, specifically on the Gell River Fire in the southwest part of the state. The deployment of five arrived Sunday to assume specialist aviation roles operating out of Hobart and Strathgordon.

Map Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia
Map showing the location of the Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia.

The Gell River Fire has burned 50,600 acres (20,500 ha) primarily in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Portions of the fire are burning in peat, which means the deep-seated blaze will likely persist for months and continue to produce smoke.

Below is an update on the fire from the Tasmania Fire Service:

The fire continues to burn in buttongrass and mixed forest vegetation in the Vale of Rasselas, approximately 10 kilometres northwest of Tim Shea and along the Denison Range and Gordon Range. A sprinkler line around the northern side of Lake Rhona was successful in protecting fire-sensitive vegetation communities. Fire fighters and aerial water-bombing also managed to protect these vegetation communities in other areas. Specialist remote area fire fighters are working in rugged terrain to extinguish the fire. Although the fire is still uncontained, suppression operations conducted by fire fighters and water bombing aircraft have been successful to date, with many active fire edges minimised. An increase in smoke may be visible in the Greater Hobart area, Derwent Valley and Huon Valley on Tuesday evening and Wednesday due to increased fire activity, particularly at the southern end of the fire. Resources currently deployed to the Gell River bushfire include 60 personnel and eight aircraft. Tasmania Fire Service
This image of smoke from the Gell River Fire was captured by a satellite on January 4, 2019. Since then the activity has decreased due to a change in the weather. The red dots indicate heat detected by the satellite.
Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald
This image of smoke from the Gell River Fire was captured by a satellite on January 4, 2019. Since then the activity has decreased due to a change in the weather. The red dots indicate heat detected by the satellite.

Large wildfire in Tasmania sends smoke into Hobart

The fire near Gell River has burned over 37,000 acres

A large wildfire that started in the Gell River area in the Australian state of Tasmania has burned more than 37,000 acres (15,000 Ha) mostly in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The fire is approaching Lake Rhona and Gordon River and has sent embers into Mount Field National Park. The blaze was burning button grass but has moved into timber and peat areas, which could result in it persisting for months.

Dense smoke that spread toward the southeast heavily impacted Hobart as you can see in this satellite photo.

Tasmania Fire Gell River
Wildfire in southwest Tasmania that started near Gell River, currently burning in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The red dots indicate heat detected by the satellite. Photo, January 4, 2018.

Paul Black of the Parks and Wildlife Service said, “We’ll be considering further retardant drops, back-burning operations, a lot of water bombing, and hot and cold trailing of the active edge of the fire.”

Clouds and cooler weather moved in and slowed the spread of the fire on January 4.

smoke Hobart Tasmania Fire Gell River
Wildfire smoke from the Gell River Fire impacts Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. Photo by Olivia Hicks.

Setting up a containerized Incident Command Post in Australia

Container Fire Camp
Screenshot from the video.

When agencies in the Western United States set up a large Incident Command Post many fire organizations haul in trailers of one type or another, but this video shows how the Parks and Wildlife Service in Western Australia gets it done.

I imagine the units are quite a bit less expensive to procure than rolling stock, and it looks like they could be set up rather quickly on flat ground. If the units have to be leveled, I suppose you could raise them with the fork lift and slip concrete blocks and/or layers of 2″ x 12″ boards under them.

Hay shed fire in New South Wales

hay shed fire new south wales
Photo credit: NSW RFS. Click to enlarge.

On December 12 firefighters from New South Wales Rural Fire Service and Victoria Country Fire Authority responded to a fire in a hay shed on Howlong-Balldale Road northwest of Howlong, NSW.

In a tweet the NSW RFS warned about spontaneous combustion:

With warmer weather the risk of hay stack fires increases. This fire attended by crews between Howlong & Corowa. With hot weather on the way landholders should check the temperature in stored hay & if possible ensure that farm machinery is kept in a separate shed.

hay shed fire new south wales
Photo credit: Fire and Rescue NSW Station 206 Albury North

hay shed fire new south wales
Photo credit: Fire and Rescue NSW Station 206 Albury North

The University of Montana has information about spontaneous combustion in hay:


“Oddly enough, wet hay is more likely to lead to a spontaneous combustion fire than dry hay. If hay is put into a barn or stack when it has more than about 22 percent moisture, not only does the hay loose forage quality, but it has an increased risk of spontaneous combustion.

“High moisture hay stacks can have chemical reactions that build heat. Hay insulates, so the larger the haystack, the less cooling there is to offset the heat.

“When the internal temperature of hay rises above 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees C), a chemical reaction begins to produce flammable gas that can ignite if the temperature goes high enough.

“Hay fires generally occur within six weeks of baling. Heating occurs in all hay above 15 percent moisture, but generally it peaks at 125 to130 degrees F, within three to seven days, with minimal risk of combustion or forage quality losses. Temperature within a stack then declines to safe levels in the next 15 to 60 days, depending on bale and stack density, ambient temperature and humidity, and rainfall absorbed by the hay.

“To avoid hay fires, small, rectangular bales should not exceed 18 to 22 percent moisture, and large round or rectangular bales should not exceed 16 to 18 percent moisture for safe storage.

“In addition, you should check your hay regularly. If you detect a slight caramel odor or a distinct musty smell, chances are your hay is heating. At this point, checking the moisture is too late, and you’ll need to keep monitoring the hay’s temperature.”