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.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Close call for two engine crews in South Australia

Fire engines were overrun by fire.

south australia near miss fire
Fire engine crews were overrun by a bushfire in South Australia. Screen grab from 3 News video.

A video has surfaced that documented what must have been a terrifying ordeal for fire engine crews that were working on a bushfire in South Australia on November 25, 2015. As they were responding to the fire the 90km/h (55mph) wind shifted, catching them by surprise and overrunning their position.

In the video (which you can see here) a fire official said the rapid rate of spread through recently cut, dried, agricultural stubble helped the firefighters by moving the fire past their location relatively quickly. The exposure to extreme heat was less than if heavier fuel had been present.

Many of the wildland fire engines in Australia have protection systems that discharge water through nozzles around the entire truck. The two firefighters that left the vehicle to start the pump may have been attempting to activate the system.

Thankfully there were no injuries.

south australia near miss fire
Fire engine crews were overrun by a bushfire in South Australia. Screen grab from 3 News video.

Two killed in South Australia bushfire

From 9News:

“At least two people are dead and 13 people remain in hospital, five of them in serious or critical conditions, after yesterday’s devastating Pinery bushfire in South Australia.

South Australian premier Jay Weatherill confirmed “grave fears” were held for more people, with the full cost of the blaze still to unfold.

Watch the TODAY Show [for live stream occasional coverage of] the latest fire updates.

“We can’t be sure we have identified every single person in the fireground,” Mr Weatherill told a press conference this morning.

A 56-year-old woman was killed in a car in Hamley Bridge, while the body of 69-year-old man was found in a paddock in Pinery. Their families have been notified.  Thirteen people remain in hospital, five of those of whom are in serious or critical conditions. One of those has burns to around 80 percent of their body. At least two of those injured

At least 16 homes have been destroyed.”

The first Indigenous female firefighting crew in South Australia

Australia’s ABCNews produced a radio program about the first Indigenous female firefighting crew in South Australia. You can listen to it HERE; below is an excerpt from the transcript.


“MARK COLVIN: A group of women in a remote Aboriginal community in South Australia’s APY Lands have formed the state’s first Indigenous female fire-fighting team.

For cultural reasons women in Mimili can’t join the Country Fire Service unit in the town.

But with the men often out of community on cultural business and other help so far away the women decided to train up so they could protect themselves and their land.

One of the new fire-fighters says she hopes other Indigenous women follow their lead.

Natalie Whiting reports.

NATALIE WHITING: About five hours from Uluru in the top corner of South Australia is Mimili.

A group of women there have been spending today putting out fires.

TANIA POMPEY: We’re going out just doing some patch-burning and I think we’re doing burning a car, that’s one of our old wrecks in our rubbish dump here, just keeping up our training skills that we learnt.

NATALIE WHITING: Tania Pompey is one Mimili’s new fire-fighters.

She and eight other women have undergone training with the Country Fire Service.

TANIA POMPEY: We’ve got a male CFS team and so I was just seeing how they do their training and I thought oh well, if the men go away or anything like that for a bit of trips and things, I just decided we can’t go after them, us women have to stick up for ourselves and just look after the family.

NATALIE WHITING: Absolutely, and I guess with cultural business, men’s business, there are times when most of the men aren’t in communities, is that the case?

TANIA POMPEY: Yes, and I saw how well the men team were working together, and I went to one of the training courses and I just though oh well, let’s do it.

NATALIE WHITING: Now, I understand that you guys are actually going to be the first Indigenous female fire-fighting team.

How did you feel when you heard that?

TANIA POMPEY: Totally, totally overwhelmed.

We didn’t, we just thought oh, just a bunch of ladies doing it and then one of my friends said “we haven’t heard anything like this from other people before”, and so we felt really privileged…”

Excellent helmet cam footage of fire near Adelaide, Australia

Shot by volunteer firefighter, Ben Wilson, aka Bilson Photography, on Friday the 2nd of January, 2015. As seen on South Australian News.

The video shows some very good nozzle work and the value of quick-connect hose fittings. It could be a good training film for fighting fire in the wildland-urban interface.