The Ravine Fire that has been working its way across Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia has burned almost half of the area of the island, over 210,000 hectares (519,000 acres) or 48 percent. (See map of the fire above)
Below is an excerpt from a January 10 article at 9News:
Properties have been lost, firefighters injured and more land blackened after a night of horrific conditions across the Kangaroo Island bushfires, but the emergency has eased. Assessments are underway, but some homes are believed lost at Vivonne Bay while the town of Parndana was spared for a second time, despite fire bearing down on it from several directions. Both towns had been evacuated amid emergency warnings and the escalating danger.
Two Country Fire Service trucks were involved in burn-overs and two more CFS personnel were injured, taking the total hurt on Kangaroo Island to 22.
With rain falling across the fire ground on Friday, the warning levels for all fires were reduced first to a watch and act and then to a simple bushfire advice.
CFS chief officer Mark Jones said Thursday night was an “incredibly difficult” period for all 280 firefighters on the island.
“Winds were not consistent, they were blustery and came from many different directions,” he said.
The fire danger will increase on Monday as the forecast of Kingscote calls for winds out of the south at 8 to 16 mph. Those northerly winds will grow to 14 to 20 mph Tuesday through Thursday with very little chance of rain.
Much of the eastern third of the island consists of pastures or agriculture land without as many forested areas as found on the west end where Flinders Chase National Park is located. Most of the park has burned along with many structures in and near the park.
As the lightning-caused Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia continues to grow to the east new evacuations have been ordered. In anticipation of high fire danger on Thursday the South Australian Country Fire Service has taken the unusual step of calling on police to help evacuate the town of Vivonne Bay on the south side of the island. There are concerns that the fire could cross control lines and burn into areas with heavy fuel loading near the town of 400 residents.
The weather forecast on Thursday calls for winds east to northeasterly 25 to 35 km/h increasing to 40 km/h before shifting westerly 20 to 30 km/h in the late afternoon.
The 164,000-hectare (405,000-acre) fire has had a major impact on the wildlife while burning over a third of the island. It has been called a Noah’s Ark since it supports species that are not found in large numbers in other locations.
Several organizations on the island are caring for koalas that have been injured in the fire. About 50 have been brought to the Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park, but at least one-third had to be euthanized due to extreme burns. The Guardian reports that Sam Mitchell, co-owner of the park, estimates that of the estimated 50,000 koalas on the island “probably more than half” would have perished in the fires, but it was “a guessing game”.
There is also concern about other species including the Kangaroo Island dunnart, glossy black-cockatoo, wallabies, pygmy possums, and the rare green carpenter bee.
‘Two young people have rescued several koalas from forest fires in Kangaroo Island, Australia This species, one of the most affected by fires, could enter the list of extinct animals in several places. ‘ (IG-graciasdiostv) 🐨🦸♂️👏🏽 pic.twitter.com/br5VjE6T2j
On Monday and Tuesday local time in New South Wales some areas west of Sydney received rain, which with the higher humidities and lower temperatures slowed the spread of fires in the area. The cooler weather will continue until Friday when the inland areas of NSW will experience temperatures over 100F, 15 percent relative humidity, 15 mph northwest winds, and a chance of dry lightning which could ignite even more fires. The hot, dry, windy weather is expected to last just for the day after which temperatures should drop back into the 80s for several days.
In other bushfire news, Australia’s government is committing an additional $2 billion over two years to a new agency tasked with rebuilding bushfire-ravaged communities.
Two people were found dead on Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide, South Australia.
From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:
An experienced pilot and his son have been killed in catastrophic bushfires that have ravaged more than a third of Kangaroo Island and destroyed homes and businesses. The family of tour operator and aviator Dick Lang has confirmed he perished in the blaze, along with his youngest son Clayton — a leading plastic surgeon who specialised in hand surgery. Dick Lang, 78, ran his own flight adventure business out of Adelaide Airport and was described as one of the nation’s “best bush pilots”.
Dick Lang lived and worked in the outback for most of his life, securing him the nickname ‘Desert’. His 43-year-old son was supervisor of surgical training at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, his family said. Dick Lang had flown rescue operations in desert regions and over Papua New Guinea.
“He loved the bush, he loved adventure and he loved Kangaroo Island,” his family said.
“Dick and Clayton were prominent members of the South Australian community who rose to the top in their chosen professions.”
Police said the men died on the Playford Highway in the centre of the island, and that one of the victims was found inside a car.
In a statement, the Lang family said the men were returning to the family property on Kangaroo Island January 4 after fighting a nearby fire for two days.
This brings the death toll in the Australian fires up to 23 people, which includes three firefighters.
High humidities and a 2.5mm of rain Saturday morning slowed the spread of the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island. South Australia’s Country Fire Service said the two major fires on the island have burned more than 170,000 hectares (420,000 acres) which is 39 percent of the 88-mile long island. Many structures have burned or been damaged, including Kangaroo Island’s Visitor and Information Center, the KI Wilderness Retreat, and Hanson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. The Premier, Steven Marshall, said all buildings in the island’s Flinders Chase National Park had been “very extensively” damaged. It has been confirmed that the Southern Ocean Lodge, the high-end resort on the southwest coast that charges over $1,000 a night, suffered severe damage.
The bushfires in Victoria and New South Wales continue to spread and force residents and vacationers from homes and resorts.
Naval vessels are being used to rescue those who were forced to flee to the coastal beaches. Small boats are ferrying them out to a ship in deeper water where those who are willing and able have to climb a ladder up to the much larger vessel built to carry 300 soldiers and 23 tanks. It is expected the ship will transport about 800 evacuees. Those who can’t board the ship and still want to leave, may be removed from the burnt-over area by helicopters, but visibility degraded by smoke could make flying difficult.
In addition to the ships and helicopters being used for evacuation the New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was blindsided upon finding out from the media that Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday afternoon that 3,000 ADF reservists would be brought in to help with bushfire recovery efforts and $20 million would be provided for leasing four additional firefighting aircraft. Defense Minister Linda Reynolds said it was the first time that reservists had been called up “in this way in living memory and, in fact, I believe for the first time in our nation’s history.”
John Gould, President of 10 Tanker, said their company will be sending two more DC-10 Very Large Air Tankers to Australia as soon as the heavy maintenance presently underway is complete. He expects Tanker 912 to arrive in Australia on January 15 to be followed 10 days later by Tanker 914. They will join Tanker 911 that arrived in November. The DC-10 can carry up to 9,400 gallons of water or retardant.
Mr Fitzsimons said while he was thankful for the support, logistics would be complicated.
“I was disappointed and frustrated in the middle of one of our worst days with massive dislocation and movement of people,” he said. “I had my conversations with the Prime Minister’s office.”
As predicted, the weather Saturday in southeast Australia was hot, dry, and windy, setting temperature records in several locations — 120F degrees in Penrith and 111F in Canberra..
A very large bushfire has burned a considerable portion of the western half of Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide, South Australia. The police say the only safe places from the Ravine Fire are on the east end of the 88-mile long island in the Kingscote and Penneshaw communities.
The island is an 8-mile ferry ride away from the mainland south of Adelaide. The western third is forested and is the location of Flinders Chase National Park, much of which has burned in the fire. There are reports of significant damage to hotels and other facilities in and near the park.
Below is an excerpt from an article at The Islander:
The son of the owner of the cafe at the Flinders Chase National Park has posted this on social media: “For anyone wondering the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre and most surrounding buildings have been burnt down by the fire decimating the west end of the island. To my knowledge many families are now out of a steady income and will require as much assistance as possible, I’m sure the island will accommodate the needs of those suffering.
A very high end resort on the southwest coast, the Southern Ocean Lodge, sustained damage from the fire after guests were evacuated from the rooms that cost over $1,000 a night. Six senior staff members remained on site to monitor the situation and activate the sprinkler system designed to protect the structures. Photos taken before the fire show brush growing very close to structures at the facility.
The lightning-caused fire is burning toward the town of Parndana in the center of Kangaroo Island, prompting officials to issue an evacuation order for the community.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is reporting that “up to 150,000 hectares” (370,000 acres) have burned in the fire. If accurate, that would be about half of the island.
On Friday a northwest wind was pushing the fire to the southeast, but by early Saturday (local time) a southwest wind was blowing the smoke over the mainland south of Adelaide. Relative humidity at Parndana is predicted to be 60 to 80 percent Saturday, which should slow the fire’s spread. In addition, much of the eastern half of the island is agricultural or ranch land with occasional stringers of trees, which would reduce fire’s resistance to control and the spotting potential.
A 737 air tanker, Bomber 137, normally based this summer at Richmond, made several water or retardant drops on the fire Friday, reloading at RAAF Edinburgh near Adelaide.
Country Fire Service (CFS) deputy chief officer Andrew Stark said a decision will have to be made concerning the plans for cruise ships to arrive in the coming days, anchoring off the coast of Penneshaw on the east end of the island.