Bushfires

My brother lives in Tasmania, but not in an area currently affected. This is the latest news at the time of writing: Fears for missing residents as fire fighting continues.

Police fear there may have been deaths in the fire-ravaged south-east of Tasmania, with a number of people reported missing.

Since Friday, more than 100 homes have been destroyed by a bushfire between Forcett and the Tasman Peninsula, in the state’s south-east.

Residents of the worst-affected town of Dunalley have told of how they were forced to dive into the canal in the middle of the town to escape the wall of flames coming towards them on Friday.

State Acting Police Commissioner Scott Tilyard says there are grave fears for a small number of people reported missing…

We are, it is fair to say, still facing over a month of fire season.  I was trying to remember when there was last a severe fire down here in The Gong. I vividly remember 1968 – and the season came early: November that year. The whole of the Illawarra Escarpment went up. Living where I am now I would have been uncomfortably close.

1968/69: Widespread damage occurred over much of the eastern part of the State. Major fires at Wollongong burnt rainforest, destroyed 33 homes and five other buildings. Fires in the lower Blue Mountains were fanned by 100km/h westerly winds and destroyed 123 buildings. Three lives were lost.

Julie at Woonona has a Flickr collection superimposing historic photos on current shots. There is one showing Austinmer, north of Wollongong, in 1968.

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I was still teaching at Cronulla High at the time and I remember the sky being filled with smoke to the south.  There were also severe fires in 1997-8, though as far as this area was concerned more to the north.

1997/1998: There were major fires in the Burragorang, Piliga, Hawkesbury, Hunter, Shoalhaven, Central Coast and Sydney’s south (particularly Menai) that proved difficult to contain and suppress, and posed a major threat to communities, their assets and the environment.

However the fires were brought under control in a timely manner with only relatively minor property damage. There were in excess of 250 significant fires, and:

  • approximately 500,000ha were burnt
  • over 5,000 firefighters were utilised at any one time
  • over 60 fixed wing and rotary aricraft were involved
  • 10 homes were lost at Menai
  • 20 local government areas were affected
  • 4 firefighter lives were lost.

The principle duration was 16 days, though fires started in late November 1997 and continued until 28 Feb 1998.

Wfall81

The Menai fires, 1997

See also Turn and burn: the strange world of fire tornadoes and Jim Belshaw’s Saturday Morning Musings – fires, land management & risk.

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