Author Topic: Victoria bushfires 7 February 2009, record heatwave for SA, VIC, TAS and NSW 27 Jan to 8 Feb 2009  (Read 69113 times)

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Offline Colin Maitland

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Sorry to hear the loss of your three friends Big Pete. It was sad to see the face of the fires, "Sam the Koala", die during surgery on Thursday. I was reading this morning in the paper that she is going to be displayed in the Melbourne Museum as a symbol of the devastating fire.

Another point I was pondering over, and I don't know if it is a knee jerk reaction or based on pure evidence, either way it is important and serious, Victorian authorities have stated that they are expecting "a worse than Black Saturday" fire this season, (which starts very shortly) due the lack of rain and drought conditions, and  the abundance of fuel for the fires from dry vegetation.

ABC News article Wed Jul 29, 2009

Victorians have been warned that this summer's bushfire conditions are expected to be even worse than those which sparked the killer Black Saturday bushfires.

A leaked report from the state's Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) says a season with the "greatest potential loss to life and property is now in sight".


The report says the ominous forecast is due to Victoria's continuing drought and a forecast of El Nino weather pattern.

DSE's chief fire officer Ewan Waller says Victoria has been vulnerable to these type of seasons for a number of years.

"That is entirely due to below-average rainfall which will come into the 13th year and if we have that, if you get bad fire weather and ignition sources, then you will have disastrous fires," he said.


We all hope that this is not the case, but if it is, I hope the serious and valuable lessons taught along with the tragic loss of life will be not be forgotten.

On another note, it was good to hear that Michael Bath with EWN have had meetings with with the Victorian CFA, and hopefully a good warning system can be implemented to help to save lives.

Col
« Last Edit: 09 August 2009, 04:09:42 AM by coltan »

Offline Richary

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Rich, I think you'll find it was 1995....


Could well have been, too lazy too google it :-) I remember the timing because I went away for 9 months in 1997, back early 1998 to find the trees starting to sprout gum leaves from the trunks and so looked all furry.

Offline Peter J

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Another point I was pondering over, and I don't know if it is a knee jerk reaction or based on pure evidence, either way it is important and serious, Victorian authorities have stated that they are expecting "a worse than Black Saturday" fire this season, (which starts very shortly) due the lack of rain and drought conditions, and  the abundance of fuel for the fires from dry vegetation...
Col

I think you are quite right about the conditions down here. According to The Weather Channel (Australia), they are continuing to declare the agricultural areas as 100% drought declared. I think from a personal level, the fuel reduction burns and the clearings have not taken place at a time when it was best to do so - ie during winter. This places areas close to home for me (the Dandenongs) at probably the greatest risk since 1939. People here are expecting the worst, and were surprised it didn't happen this year (2009). Only time will tell.

Big Pete
PJJ

Offline Brad Hannon

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Hi all, I have visited all the major fire effected areas and have photos that I will eventually share on here - I just havent had time to scratch myself lately.

Michael, my thoughts are that Strathewan was the worst example of the ferocity and the hopelessness that the fires produced on that day.  So many places were devastated and are eery places to visit but I found Strath be the worst and the fatalities support that I guess.  Nestled in a valley surrounded by towering forests with creeks and only one proper road in and out and the bridge burning - they stood no chance unless shear luck stepped in and reading a book about it, there was some shear luck.

The fire in the video taken from St Andrews is astonishing and I believe it has a direct link with the devastation of Strathewan.  Ever since Nick Moir posted the video, it haunted me.  I wanted to know where it was filmed from and what direction he was facing when the firestorm approached.  I knew the fires were travelling violently SE before the change and then even more violently NE after it but it didnt make sense to me that the fire could be travelling right to left from his vantage in St Andrews which effectly became the southern edge of the fire effected area in that region. It made sense to me that St Andrews should be south of this firestorm, hence it would be moving left to right if his vantage.  To find the answer I used the white pages to find his address using his name from the video, then I used google earth to find the address and based on the geography in his video I discovered that the location of the video, although classed as St Andrews is much closer to Strathewan township than St Andrews township.  His video is pointing generally SW - Strathewan is SW-W of his location. After watching the video many times, using the features of google earth, visiting the area and reading many accounts from Strathewan locals, I am absolutely certain that the footage of the firestorm is taken in the moments during and after it has ravaged Strathewan at the bottom of the valley, growing in intensity as it climbs the ridge and continuing SE towards St Andrews as the wind violently changes NE toward the end of the video and comes back towards the guy with the video from his left (south) on its way towards Kinglake.  I have no doubt having read survivor accounts from Kinglake, that the extreme behaviour in the video such as rapid increase in fire speed, height of flames and possibly rotating firestorm was replicated as the fire roared up the steep ridges to Kinglake in the minutes after the video.

Scary stuff.

Brad.





hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Michael Bath

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Hi Brad - yeah the video is not from St Andrews - the address is 105 rankines road, strathewen. Look 500 metres east of the Google Maps marker and you can see the house.

Your analysis of the wind change is pretty much how I worked it out too.

MB
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Offline Brad Hannon

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Hi, as promised here are some HDR pics I shot from various bushfire areas in the months after the disaster. Brad.

These first 3 shots are from the Heidelberg-Kinglake Road as I made my way to Kinglake township.

« Last Edit: 25 August 2009, 01:58:00 PM by Brad Hannon »
hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Jimmy Deguara

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Brad,

Your images and those of others in this thread illustrate the tragic loss of a beutiful part of the world! The shoots represent life but it would take an extremely long period of time to get this region back even close to its original ecosystem.

Regards,

Jimmy Deguara
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Offline Brad Hannon

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Here are three more pics taken from the Heidelberg-Kinglake Rd which used to be shrouded by the thick bushland growth right up to and above the roadside - I tried chasing a storm there once and it was useless because I couldnt see - things have changed now.

hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Brad Hannon

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The first 2 shots were taken along the Whittlesea-Yea Rd near Kinglake Westand the 3rd is the general store at Kinglake Central.  Some of the gestures such as flags, stuffed toys and messages placed by locals, rescuers or others were reminiscent of what I witnessed in Greensburg after their tornado disaster.

« Last Edit: 25 August 2009, 02:12:19 PM by Brad Hannon »
hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Brad Hannon

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This property near where Brian Naylor lived has been cleared.  While the view east to the Yarra Ranges is breathtaking, look closely and you'll see most of the distant terrain is burnt.  The road winding in the centre of the shot is Heidelberg-Kinglake Rd and the town of Strathewan is below this vantage.  My second shot was taken in the steep hills above Strathewan and the third displays the near complete destruction of Flowerdale.

hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Brad Hannon

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These two shots were taken on the western side of a mountain as I approached the Gippsland town of Calignee after emerging from a dense rainforest on the eastern side.  We went from dense wet greenery to a black wasteland and the sound of the wind, and nothing else was eerie to say the least.  I will post shots of Marysville at a later time.



hmmm June 2nd......

Offline Shaun Galman

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Thanks for posting those Brad.

Really paints a picture of devastation on a large scale! On the bright side it's great to see the new shoots coming back to the trees.

Let's hope we don't get to see anything on this scale ever again.
Cheers,
Shauno
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Offline Jason(pato)

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I had the opportunity to travel to the fire devastated areas in Victoria last week whilst in Melbourne for the ASWA AGM. Myself, Rod Wallbridge and Michael Bath and our respective partners travelled to the areas of Kinglake and Marysville. To be completely honest with you I didn't expect to be absolutely gobsmacked at the sheer scale and enormity of what happened on that fateful day in February. Travelling to the "firezone" it was incredible to witness the sheer destruction of the countryside, whilst there was some growth starting to emerge on some of the trees the lack of ground vegetation was what amazed me the most. We stopped at the exactly same place as Brad did in his photos on the Kinglake rd and took some photos....so I won't post mine as they are exactly the same as his. Something we take for granted in our everyday lives is the sounds of nature, you don't really miss it till you don't hear it. This area was completely devoid of any natural sounds except for the hiss of the wind through the fire scarred landscape. I think that unless you have been up to the area, you can't really appreciate what those poor people in those communities went through. The cement slabs and lonely hills hoists paint a sad reflection of what once was. In fact when we drove into Marysville I didn't even know that we were in the town until MB pointed out features amongst the devastation that reminded us that structures once stood where only a bare patch of earth or cement slab now remain. In all it was a fascinating but a rather humbling and sobering experience. Its not something that I'll ever forget and I hope that this summer doesn't have a repeat of that awful day.

Cheers

Jason
South Lismore, Northern Rivers NSW.....Supercells are us!!

Offline Colin Maitland

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For those who may be reading, researching or who followed the events of is catastrophic fire, it may be of interest to read some of the concluding findings that contributed to Black Saturday. I have posted only one of the outcomes today. ( There have been many findings to date.)
This may help in research or bring some closure.

News reports today,(February the 2nd 2010), have highlighted how two teenage boys have been charged with deliberately lighting one of the fires. The ABC website reads:

Almost a year after the Black Saturday bushfires devastated Victoria, two teenage boys have been charged with lighting the Bendigo blaze that killed a disabled man in his home.

One of the boys, 14, appeared in a children's court dressed in his school uniform to answer extensive charges including arson causing death.

The other boy, 15, appeared in a separate court. Both youths were bailed.

Taskforce Phoenix detectives arrested the boys about 9am (AEDT) on Tuesday in relation to the February 7 Maiden Gully fire, which police estimate caused $23.5 million damage to the area.

An angry crowd of about 10 people greeted the 14-year-old outside court on Tuesday, some yelling "show us your face" as the shrouded boy was driven away.

The boy was flanked by two detectives and a uniformed policeman and had a jumper draped over his head.

He was bundled into an unmarked car flanked by another six uniformed officers.

House-bound Long Gully man Kevin "Mick" Kane, 47, died in the fire after he was trapped inside his home.

The youths were each charged with arson causing death, deliberately lighting a bushfire, lighting a fire on total fire ban day and lighting a fire in a country area during extreme weather conditions.

They were also charged with 135 counts each of criminal damage by fire (arson) and multiple counts of use telecommunications service to menace, harass over a two-month period beginning just days before the fire.

As a result of the Maiden Gully fire in Bendigo, 354 hectares of land, 61 houses and 125 sheds and outbuildings were destroyed.

Properties destroyed included a pottery business and a home worth half a million dollars.

The Black Saturday fires killed 173 people across Victoria and destroyed more than 2000 properties.




Offline Colin Maitland

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The final report from the Royal Commission was handed down from their findings of the investigation into the tragic events that unfolded in February 2009. I posted this report as a final closure to this thread for anyone that may be researching the event or just wanting to know what valuable lessons can be learnt.  I found the last page of the PDF file somewhat sobering and brought a personal feeling to the event when it lists all the names to those who lost their lives.

The PDF file link can be found at this stage at http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/31/2969763.htm

Victoria's Bushfires Royal Commission has recommended sweeping policy changes in response to the Black Saturday and Gippsland bushfires.

After 155 days of hearings, including evidence from more than 400 witnesses, the Royal Commission has handed down its final report with 67 recommendations.

The commissioners have called for a "comprehensive approach to evacuation" including the potential for "emergency evacuations" when doing so would provide a greater level of protection.

The report has also called for designated community refuges in areas of high bushfire risk and for the appointment of an independent fire commissioner.

The Commission wants the Government to roughly quadruple the amount of controlled burning it undertakes.

It has also recommended parts of Victoria's ageing electricity infrastructure be upgraded to reduce the risk of fires.

The report has also flagged a program of voluntary acquisition for homes in high-risk areas.

A total of 173 people were killed and thousands were left homeless when bushfires swept across Victoria on February 7, 2009.

The Commission also examined the bushfire that destroyed 30 homes in Gippsland the week before Black Saturday.

The report concludes former Victorian Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon took a "hands off" approach on Black Saturday.

It says her performance on the day "left much to be desired".

Ms Nixon has admitted going to dinner at a Melbourne hotel as the fires raged.

The Commission found Ms Nixon, former Country Fire Authority chief Russel Rees and the head of the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Ewan Waller, "did not demonstrate effective leadership in crucial areas" by ensuring that "prompt and accurate warnings were issued to communities in the path of the fires".

Government response

The Government will not respond to the Commission's recommendations for several weeks after consulting with the community.

Victorian Premier John Brumby will meet bushfire survivors today.

He will also receive a briefing about the report's recommendations.

Mr Brumby says the release of the report will be difficult for survivors and those who lost loved ones in the fires.

He has called on the wider community to throw its support behind fire-affected communities.

"I think it's important for all Victorians, indeed all Australians, to recognise, to acknowledge, to understand the trauma, the hurt, the pain that all of those families, their friends and their extended families will be feeling today," he said.

Mr Brumby says it is important for the Government to consider its response to the report carefully.

"As Premier I feel the full weight of responsibility to make sure that we get our response to the Commission's report right to make sure we make our state as safe as possible," he said.

"The people of our state want the opportunity to have some input."

'Gaps' in report

Communities affected by the bushfires are beginning to examine the final report.

Copies were delivered to fire-affected communities and community hubs have been set up in some areas to give survivors the chance to read the findings in a supportive environment.

Lyn Gunter, the mayor of Murrindindi when the Black Saturday fires swept through the shire, says there are some "gaps" in the final report.

"I'm encouraged but I don't think it's enough," she said.

"The major gaps are going to be the communications, the safer places and the identification of those.

"And it's about knowing these are going to be implemented.

"People want the confidence to know these recommendations and the recommendations for their safety are going to be implemented."