Australia NSW bushfires burn an area greater than Wales, the result of an exceptional spring

19:05  18 december  2019
19:05  18 december  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

Uncontained fire threatens Gippsland town

  Uncontained fire threatens Gippsland town The emergency warning for some communities in Victoria's Gippsland region has been downgraded but Ensay is still in the path of an uncontrolled bushfire.Alerts were issued on Monday for the towns of Holstons, Reedy Flat and Ensay North, about 350km east of Melbourne, with residents urged to take shelter indoors because it was too late to flee.

Bushfires this season have officially burnt the most land on modern record across eastern New South Wales.

In a special climate statement released on Wednesday, the Bureau of Meteorology said spring 2019 saw Australia's highest fire weather danger on record.

Even by the end of spring, the extent of the fires this season was exceptional; more than 1.65 million hectares had been burnt in New South Wales.

On December 9, NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons tweeted that fires had burnt about 2.7 million hectares — an area greater than Wales.

Perth bushfire emergency continues for fifth day with more blistering heat forecast

  Perth bushfire emergency continues for fifth day with more blistering heat forecast "Weary" firefighters will tackle the bushfire for a fifth day, with a Boeing 737 water bomber sent from New South Wales to help protect lives and homes.About 400 firefighters are battling a fire near Two Rocks, about 60 kilometres north of Perth, that remains at an emergency level for a fifth consecutive day.

Yes, Wales, the country.

a man sitting in a field: The fire danger for the country as a whole was the highest on record for spring. (ABC News: Selby Stewart) © Provided by ABC NEWS The fire danger for the country as a whole was the highest on record for spring. (ABC News: Selby Stewart) Or if sport is more your thing, one hectare is approximately the size of a soccer pitch.

Between early September and the end of November, 220,000 hectares had been burnt in Queensland and still the fires rage on.

Fires have already occurred in every state and territory this season.

Normally, it would now only be the beginning of the fire season in the southern states, and traditionally the northern fire season would be winding down as summer rains arrived, but there is no indication that rain is coming any time soon.

Fire danger unprecedented

The fire danger wasn't just restricted to the east coast, with the rating for the country as a whole far and away the highest on record for spring since 1950.

Homes threatened as fire jumps creek

  Homes threatened as fire jumps creek Blue Mountains residents are being urged to take shelter after a blaze the size of Greater Sydney jumped a creek, with at least one home lost.The NSW Rural Fire Service issued an 'emergency' warning this afternoon for Mount Wilson, Mount Irvine, Mount Tomah and Berambing, with residents told to take shelter as it is too late to leave.

"Spring 2019 saw the highest fire weather danger as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI), with record-high values observed in areas of all states and territories," the report stated.

The FFDI takes into account recent rainfall, a drought index, relative humidity, air temperature and wind speed to give a value that reflects how dangerous a fire is expected to be once it gets going.

It's what you see represented on the roadside fire danger signs: low, high, very high, extreme, catastrophic (code red in Victoria).

"More than 95 per cent of Australia by area had spring-accumulated FFDI values that were very much above average (highest 10 per cent of years), including almost 60 per cent of the country that was highest on record for spring," the report stated.

Other big fire years for NSW

It is important to note there is a big difference in fires depending on where they are in New South Wales.

Climate change is 'leading to more severe bushfires'

  Climate change is 'leading to more severe bushfires' Royal Australian College of Physicians fellow Dr Kate Charlesworth says scientists have been “very clear" that climate change is "leading to more frequent and severe bushfires, droughts and heatwaves”. Dr Charlesworth told Sky News that the government need to address not only the health messages but the key contributing cause to a lot of these bushfires, which “is climate change”.“As a health protection measure it is very clear that we need to rapidly shift away from harmful fossil fuels and towards cleaner, healthier and safer forms of energy,” she said.

As a general rule, fires west of the Great Dividing Range are often more widespread, but because of lower fuel loads they burn with a lower intensity.

Fires on or east of the range, in more densely forested areas, burn with a greater intensity; when that intensity is combined with higher population density, there is greater risk.

According to the report, the closest season compared to 2019 was 1968, but even it was less extensive than this year.

Those fires also took place under severe drought conditions and were limited to the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

The 1968 season had a number of major fires, including one in the Blue Mountains that burnt for more than a month — the Australian Disaster Resilience Knowledge Hub attributes the Blue Mountains and Illawarra bushfire with burning through 1.5 million hectares.

Other major fires in eastern NSW include:

  • January 1994, when 800,000 hectares burnt around Sydney and the state's north-east
  • Christmas 2001, when 750,000 hectares burnt on the southern fringes of Sydney and around the ACT, bringing significant smoke
  • October 2013, most remembered for its rapid onset and significant loss of homes in the Blue Mountains

With the current heat event, South Australia is bracing for dangerous fire conditions until a cool change late Friday.

NSW firefighters defend property-destroying back burn

  NSW firefighters defend property-destroying back burn Firefighters have defended hazard reduction backburns in the New South Wales Blue Mountains despite losing control of a fire that destroyed an estimated 20 properties. Authorities said there could have been greater property loss and even loss of life had they not undertaken the backburning operation. More favourable conditions have been seized by firefighters to strengthen containment lines ahead of an impending heatwave with temperatures in excess of 40 degrees expected.

The worst of the fire danger is then expected to return to New South Wales on Saturday ahead of the change, with continued elevated fire danger in Queensland.

This week's update to the bushfire outlook didn't bring much in the way of good news.

To find out the latest on the NSW and QLD bushfires, please refer to:

  • QRFS
  • At Microsoft News Australia we've partnered with the giving platform Benevity to raise funds for Australian Red Cross, St Vincent De Paul Society and The Salvation Army; these organisations are helping communities across the country devastated by bushfires. You can help these organisations by donating here and for the latest news and RFS links visit Bushfire emergency.

    No holiday for SA premier while fires burn .
    South Australia's premier has decided not to leave on a planned holiday while major bushfires continue to burn.South Australian Premier Steven Marshall has decided not to leave on a planned overseas holiday as major bushfires continue to burn across the state.

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