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.

Saturday in New South Wales to be “tough day” for firefighters

Projected fire spread December 21, 2019
Projected fire spread December 21, 2019. NSW RFS.

From the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

“Today is going to be a tough day,” New South Wales Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers said Saturday morning.

He said temperatures are expected to soar above 40C, humidity is predicted to drop below 10 per cent and there will be average winds of 30 to 40 kilometers, with gusts of up to 75 kilometers per hour.

“That’s obviously going to be very dangerous in areas where we have active fires.”

He said there are already “significant fires burning” in the Shoalhaven, Illawarra and Southern Ranges areas where the catastrophic fire ratings were issued.

“We can’t guarantee that every time someone wants a fire truck, we can’t get one there. Don’t expect a plane to be overhead straight away and don’t expect a helicopter. Don’t wait for a warning. Think about what you are going to do if you are in the path of the fires.”

The RFS said conditions will deteriorate around lunch time and if anyone is planning on leaving or moving around, they should do so before midday.

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.
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