Australian football team evacuated ahead of advancing bushfire

Gippsland Power Football Club
Gippsland Power Football Club, waiting to be evacuated near Mount Feathertop

An Australian rules football team had to be evacuated by helicopters when they found themselves out ahead of an advancing bushfire in Victoria near Mount Feathertop.

According to the Border Mail, 36 members of the Gippsland Power Football team were training at high altitude and had no choice but to be flown out by helicopters when a bushfre approached their location. They were participating in a preseason training camp at Mount Feathertop, which is 6,300 feet (1,922 M) above sea level.

The fire that threatened the Gippsland Power Football Club
The fire that threatened the Gippsland Power Football Club. Check out what appears to be flames hundreds of feet above the ground, and a spot fire quite some distance in front of the fire.

Here is an excerpt from an article at the Border Mail:

…[Team doctor Wayne] Thompson said he and the team were on the 22 kilometre Razorback Trail up the mountain and as they started climbing, smoke started getting thicker.

“There was just smoke and all of a sudden the smoke got a bit thicker and then we could see flames,” Mr Thompson said.

Flames were about four kilometres away and with mobile coverage, they were able to keep in contact with emergency services while a helicopter hovered overhead monitoring the fire.

About 3.30pm and with flames only 100 metres away, a bigger helicopter was bought in to airlift 15 people at a time from a track between Federation Hut and Mount Feathertop.

They were taken to Hotham Village along with other hikers that had been rescued.

Mr Thompson said constant contact with emergency services kept any panic at bay.

All of these photos are from the football club’s Facebook page.

Gippsland Power Football Club

Gippsland Power Football Club evacuates in front of a bushfire
A Coulson helicopter, a Sikorsky S-61N, prepares to evacuate the Gippsland Power Football Club

I have to admit, I had to do a little research to find out what Australian rules football is all about. Apparently they use a ball that appears similar to the American football used in the United States, but the game resembles soccer (football in Europe) more than American football. Here’s more from Wikipedia:

Australian Rules Football

Gender and bushfires

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Meagan Tyler, a researcher in Australia, has raised the question about gender and how it and other social factors play a role in determining how people prepare for, respond to, and recover from bushfires and other disasters. In an article, Ms.Tyler’s opinions are based on research research funded by the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre conducted at the Centre for Sustainable Organisations and Work.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

…Take the ongoing TV coverage of the most recent fires. Sooner or later, the camera throws to a fire agency representative and, almost invariably, this will be a man in uniform. Which is, after all, only representative of the agencies themselves. These are heavily masculinised institutions, often with militarised histories. This legacy lives on today, with research showing that women make up less than a quarter of all personnel in rural fire services around Australia. Many of these women are in non-operational, support, and administrative roles.

[…]

For instance, Professor John Handmer submitted the following to the Royal Commission [investigating the circumstances surrounding the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in which 173 people died]:

“There is evidence of disagreements as the fire approached. In virtually all cases this was between women who wanted to leave and take the men with them and men who either wanted to stay and defend or who felt they had to support others in that role … This led to some people changing their plans at the last minute. This appears particularly the case for couples. There are instances where women who fled under these circumstances survived. Conversely, there is also evidence of such disagreements where males refused to leave, but relatives decided to stay, leading to additional fatalities.”

There is no question that in the fire service, both structural and wildland, males outnumber females by a wide margin. This is in spite of the fact that some federal agencies in the United States, especially the U.S. Forest Service, have gone to great lengths (some would say excessive lengths) to hire and promote women. But there may still be organizations that go to the other extreme and have a very small number of women within their ranks.

Besides the proportion of women in the fire service, the other issue raised by Ms. Tyler is the social relationship that women in the general population have with wildfires, specifically preparedness, stay and defend, and evacuation. Is social outreach from the fire agencies gender-specific, or more effective for one gender or the other? Are these issues that need to be fixed?

Satellite photo of fires in Tasmania

Satellite photo, fires in Tasmania
Satellite photo, fires in Tasmania, October 6, 2013. NASA. (click to enlarge)

This NASA satellite photo shows the entire island of Tasmania south of Australia. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image showing numerous fires across the island on January 6, 2013. Red outlines indicate hot spots where MODIS detected the unusually warm surface temperatures associated with fires. A higher-resolution version of the image can be downloaded HERE.

Fire names in Australia

Bush fire in Australia
Bush fire in Australia. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Kelly pointed out that some of the names of places in Australia, such as Warrumbungle National Park, can be interesting. I agree, and in search of a few more I perused a list of the names of this season’s fires on the New South Wales Rural Fire Service web site. Here are some that I noticed:

Monkey Top, Coonabarabran, Bugaldie, Tooraweenah, Bugaldi, Baan Baa, Yalambee, Ernies Flat, Boolcarrol, Sunnydowns, Mandurma, Nangar, Wearne’s Road, Moonbria, Nanima, Yulladunida, Quinytambie, Tinda Creek, Marrapina, Koonawarra,Munkartie, Mobla, Colong, Coybil, Glenirie, Umbango, Mates Gully, Wokolena, Nundle, Popodopoulos, Swampy Arm, Kiwarrak Cross Road, and Old Soldiers Firetrail.

Wildfire burns structures at observatory in New South Wales

Wambelong Fire, Siding Springs Observatory
The Wambelong Fire threatens the Siding Springs Observatory. Photo by New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

The Wambelong Fire has raged across 39,007 hectares (93,388 acres) in New South Wales (NSW) burning through Warrumbungle National Park and other lands west of Coonabarabran.

Siding Spring Observatory, post fire
Siding Spring Observatory, after the fire. Photo: NWS RFS

NSW Rural Fire Service Building Impact Assessment Teams have confirmed 33 structures in the Timor Road area have been destroyed, although this number is likely to change as crews continue their assessments. More than 50 outbuildings have also burned, as well as a large number of livestock and farm machinery.

Map, Wambelong Fire
Map of the Wambelong Fire, provided by the RFS, 1:25 a.m. January 15, 2013

Approximately five structures at the Siding Spring Observatory complex have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, including the visitor center and the lodge used as accommodations for visiting researchers. The main telescope has survived, although it is not known if it has been damaged.

The fire is spreading in a northerly direction away from Timor Road and the observatory and is currently burning in the Bugaldie area.

Properties to the west of the the Warrumbungle National Park may come under direct threat if firefighters cannot contain the fire on the western boundary of the National Park.

Approximately 83 firefighters supported by aircraft worked to establish containment lines throughout the afternoon and evening on Monday.

Siding Spring Observatory, after the fire
Siding Spring Observatory, after the fire, showing damaged to the lodge used as accommodations for visiting researchers. Photo: NSW RFS.

Below is a video news report about the fire.

Firefighter dies in Australia

Peter Cramer
Peter Cramer, on the day he was presented an award for 20 years of CFA volunteer service, DSE photo

UPDATE: January 14, 2013. The deceased firefighter has been identified as Peter Ronald Cramer, 61, a 30-year volunteer from the town of Tyers, Victoria about 160km east of Melbourne. The latest information is that he been on foot identifying containment lines before he was found deceased on a track at 5pm on Sunday.

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A firefighter from Gippsland aged in his 60s died Sunday while working on a wildfire in Tasmania. The man was one of 70 from Victoria that had been sent to assist with the suppression of fires raging in the state. News.com.au reported that the firefighter was on foot conducting a backburning operation on the Forcett Fire when he was killed near Taranna, about 30 air miles southeast of Hobart (map).

The firefighter’s family has been notified but his name has not been released to the public.

The Forcett fire started on November 16 and has burned 24,040 hectares (59,404 acres) within a perimeter of 200km. It is being fought by 150 firefighters using 39 tankers and four aircraft.

Our sincere condolences go out to the firefighter’s family and co-workers.