Firefighter killed, one injured in South Australia

They were working on the Coles Fire northwest of Coonawarra

Map Coles Fire
Map showing the location of heat detected on the Coles Fire at 1605 UTC Jan. 20, 2022 in South Australia.

One firefighter working on the Coles Fire in South Australia has been killed and another hospitalized, the state’s Country Fire Service announced on Friday. The agency said “they were involved in a falling tree incident.”

In a news release the Country Fire Services said, “Family and other personnel have been informed and are being offered support at this time. The seriously injured CFS member has been taken to hospital for further treatment. The safety and wellbeing of our people is our highest priority and our thoughts are with our CFS family at this time.”

From The Guardian:

One firefighter has died and another has been seriously injured after a tree collapsed on a fire truck battling an out-of-control bushfire in South Australia’s south-east.

The incident occurred at the firefront at Coles, near Lucindale, where the blaze was running uncontrolled through bluegum plantations, scrub and grassland, a spokeswoman for the state’s Country Fire Service said.

The Coles Fire, first reported January 19, has burned 3,835 ha (9,476 a) about 28 km (17 miles) west-northwest of Coonawarra in southeast South Australia.

Data from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center in 2016 showed that in the United States hazardous trees was the fifth leading cause of wildland firefighter fatalities, behind medical, aircraft accidents, vehicle accidents, and entrapments.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of the two firefighters.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Report released for the bushfire that burned much of Kangaroo Island in South Australia

The findings included insufficient numbers of firefighting resources, and working against the chain of command

Satellite photo showing the fires on Kangaroo Island
Satellite photo showing the fires on Kangaroo Island South Australia, January 6, 2020 local time. NASA.

A report on the 210,000-hectare bushfire that burned almost half of Kangaroo Island southwest of Adelaide, Australia found that there was a shortage of resources, a lack of strategic planning, and cases of not following, or actively working against, the chain of command. The fire killed two people and nearly 60,000 livestock, and destroyed 87 homes.

The 2019-2020 bushfire season in Australia was one for the history books. The 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) blackened were more than the area burned in the Black Saturday 2009 and Ash Wednesday 1983 bushfires combined.

One of the largest was the Ravine Fire that spread east across the 88-mile long Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia, burning 48 percent of the island, more than half a million acres.

The South Australian Country Fire Service (SACFS) commissioned a private company, C3 Resilience, to conduct an independent review of the Ravine Fire to “assist with ongoing operational improvement.” The resulting 95-page report states that it is based on 6,359 observations, 522 surveys, and 63 individual and group sessions.

The SACFS said upon releasing the report, “The men and women of the CFS acted in the best interest of the community despite extremely limited resources and facing circumstances which had never previously been anticipated. Many of these men and women did so at their own risk to their welfare and safety. The report notes many positives and clearly defines the need for better resourcing for the CFS.”

Some excerpts from the document:

  • Due to the operational load within the organization, the process of only sending endorsed IMTs [Incident Management Teams] ceased, replaced with an ad-hoc manner of the selection of staff for IMTs including field command positions. This lack of competence resulted in communication deficiencies between the ground, lack of integration of local knowledge. The breakdown at times with communications across the IMT in the planning and operations cells, for example, on the Ravine fire provided a basis for the failure of operational planning occurring at critical times.
  • The design of doctrine, combined with a lack of capability and competency programs for regional staff along with fatigue led to the RCC [Regional Command Center] being overwhelmed. This led to a lack of strategic resource planning, including using what capability existed within their own region to support operations on KI [Kangaroo Island].
  • Much of the good work completed was discounted by a culture of some not following, or actively working against, the chain of command. Secondly, there was a lack of accountability by some crews for the mopping up and blacking out procedures led to further fire spread. The lack of technology gave the IMT little intelligence picture to work to in collecting the achievement of tactics where successful, and detecting issues of lack of accountability where they occurred.
  • The SACFS [South Australian Country Fire Service] has a lessons management system, however it failed implementation for the KI fires, as the lessons have not translated into planning across coordinated fire fighting agencies.
  • The fires on KI needed every capability they could get. The insertion of the ADF [Australian Defense Force] was a welcome one, however the tasking process took some time to adjust to and work through. The integration of the forestry industry was mixed between fully integrated and not at all.
  • There is significant opportunity to achieve good community outcomes by further integrating FFUs [Farm Firefighting Units] into operations of fires across KI. By all parties agreeing on a coordination model, and common standards of PPE [personal protective equipment], safety standards and how to communicate, it will only increase positive outcomes for the community.
  • Aviation responded well to support ground crew efforts. The establishment of a TRZ [Temporary Response Zone] could have assisted with a more rapid deployment to the Ravine Complex. An even closer relationship between IMT and aviation specialists will increase the outcome for fires on KI to integrate air and ground tactics.
Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island map
Satellite photo from January 3, 2020 local time showing the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The red dots represent heat. Later the wind shifted, blowing the smoke toward the northeast. NASA.

Bushfire has burned almost half of Kangaroo Island

Two Country Fire Service trucks were involved in burn-overs

Map Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island
Map showing the extent of the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island, January 12, 2020. South Australian Country Fire Service.

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.

Two men were killed on January 4, Dick Lang and his son Clayton.

The State Government on Sunday reported that more than 32,000 livestock animals, mostly sheep, perished in the blazes as well as 830 hives and 115 nucleus hives.

The satellite photos below illustrate the eastward growth of the fire on Kangaroo Island over a five-day period.

Map Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island satellite photo
January 6, 2020 satellite photo showing the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island. The red areas represent heat. NASA.
Map Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island satellite photo
January 11, 2020 satellite photo showing the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island. The red areas represent heat. NASA.

Another area of Kangaroo Island evacuated prior to high bushfire danger

Fire has had major impacts on Kangaroo Island’s wildlife, killing thousands of koalas

Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island Australia
The gray area on the west side of Kangaroo Island has burned in the Ravine Fire. Copernicus image. January 8, 2020 local time.

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 red areas represent heat detected on the Ravine Fire on South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. January 8, 2020 local time.

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 found dead in Kangaroo Island Fire in South Australia

More air tankers from North America will be be sent to Australia

Satellite photo smoke Australia fires
Satellite photo of smoke from fires in New South Wales and Victoria December 3, 2020. The red areas represent heat.

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.

Evacuees being ferried HMAS Choules
Evacuees being ferried to the HMAS Choules Australia DoD photo.

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.

Department of Defence Australia helicopter rescue
Helicopters from Australia’s Department of Defence has been transporting fire refugees to safer ground. DOD photo.

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.

From ABC:

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..

Bushfire burns large portion of Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide Australia

Officials say the only safe areas on the island are the Kingscote and Penneshaw communities

Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island map
Satellite photo from January 3, 2020 local time showing the Ravine Fire on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The red dots represent heat. Later the wind shifted, blowing the smoke toward the northeast. NASA.

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.

Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island map
Kangaroo Island is at the lower left. Fires are indicated by the cross-hatched areas, but as of January 4 local time the areas shown as burned were not up to date.

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.

Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island
File photo of the Southern Ocean Lodge on the southwest coast of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Southern Ocean Lodge photo.

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.

 Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island
File photo of the Southern Ocean Lodge on the southwest coast of Kangaroo Island in South Australia. Southern Ocean Lodge photo.

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.

Bomber 137, a Boeing 737 dropped Ravine Fire Kangaroo Island
Bomber 137, a Boeing 737, made several drops on the Ravine Fire January 3, 2020 reloading near Adelaide.

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.