COMMENT: TWM achieved in a few days what 4,500 firefighters, 90 aircraft and several months headstart, couldn't. Something for NSW Fire Services and politicians to think about when future bushfires threaten.

Winter bushfires break out across NSW
14 Aug 2002
The worst winter bushfires in over 50 years have broken out in about 20 areas across New South Wales, with strong winds and dry conditions making it difficult for the NSW Rural Fire Brigade to contain the fires. The Weather Bureau is forecasting some isolated showers but the winds and dry conditions soon negate any rainfall, said RFS chief Phil Koperberg. There's no sign of any break in the drought, he added, and it's not a nice position to be in this side of the fire season... Phil Koperberg said that most of the fires are the result of escaped hazard reduction burns, but arson is suspected in at least one case. He was optimistic that all the fires could be contained within 36 to 48 hours.
The Age, 14/8/02, page 7.

Scores of bushfires scorch eastern Australia
28 October 2002
SYDNEY - Scores of bushfires blazed along Australia's parched east coast on the weekend razing a handful of homes and forcing hundreds of people to evacuate as winds fanned flames up to 30 metres (100 ft) into the air. Fire fighters used aerial waterbombers to try to control fires scattered across south Queensland and mid-north New South Wales and are hopeful rain forecast for Sunday will help douse the flames. One man was killed and more than a dozen homes destroyed last week as firefighters battled more than 50 blazes along the drought-stricken eastern seaboard...  More than 85 individual fires were blazing across New South Wales, Australia's most populous state, but no major towns or cities are threatened by the latest outbreaks... Fire services have said this year's bushfires could be far worse than last year because of extremely dry weather. Most of New South Wales is suffering one of the worst droughts on record and Sydney is experiencing its third-driest winter since records began.
Story Date: 28/10/2002

Massive bushfires hit Sydney
The Australian December 05, 2002 [Abridged]
FIREFIGHTERS were fighting a losing battle last night to control massive bushfires on Sydney's southern and northern outskirts that destroyed at least 17 homes and plunged the city into chaos. Driven by 100km/h winds, temperatures in the high 30s and humidity as low as 4 per cent, more than 40 fires broke out in the Greater Sydney area within an hour, about 3pm.  "Under these conditions fires cannot be stopped . . . (the) winds are causing erratic fire behaviour," NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg said last night, after the worst day so far in what is already a horror bushfire season for NSW. Severe weather conditions are expected again today, with strong and squally westerly winds, and temperatures reaching 30C. Mr Koperberg warned it would be a miracle if more suburbs in Sydney's north and south did not come under serious threat...  Effects of the fires were felt across Sydney yesterday, including in the CBD, as flashovers on huge high-voltage transmission lines near the fires caused power supply surges that blacked out homes and offices, disrupted rail services and industries, and caused road chaos as traffic lights failed.  Major entertainment events in Sydney were cancelled last night, including John Farnham's concert at the Entertainment Centre and all performances at the Opera House... By late yesterday, 67 aircraft and thousands of firefighters were battling more than 60 fires around Sydney. [...]

See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Strong winds whip up fierce Sydney bushfires
NZ Herald  Saturday December 07, 2002 [Abridged]
SYDNEY - Sydney was cut off from the north today after fierce bushfires, fanned by strong winds, closed major highways and rail tracks as they burned for a third straight day. While a splash of rain and easing temperatures brought some relief for firefighters battling blazes to Sydney's south and in the Blue Mountains to the west, gale-force winds whipped up fires that have destroyed up to 20 homes in the city's north. New South Wales rural fire service spokesman John Winters said the bushfire in northern Sydney had doubled in size in the past 24 hours to 16,000 hectares... Three thousand firefighters and at least 80 water-bombing aircraft have joined the battle against what officials say are the worst bushfires to hit Sydney in at least three decades... Traffic chaos loomed for the city of four million on Friday as trucks, unable to come into Sydney from the north or to get out, parked on roadsides in lines that were tens of kilometres long. Local television showed thick smoke blanketing the city's main thoroughfares to central and northern New South Wales state, while bright orange sparks, whipped up by 80kmh winds, swept across the tarmac in waves. Trees were also being felled by the flames and were crashing down onto the roads. [...]

COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Firefighters brace for Sydney inferno
The Australian December 06, 2002 [Abridged]
FIREFIGHTERS were last night bracing for the arrival of a southwesterly gale they fear will produce the biggest bushfire emergency the Sydney region has faced in 25 years. Rural Fire Services Commissioner Phil Koperberg warned that the fires ringing Sydney would stop "either when there's nothing left to burn or it rains". Rain was falling in parts of Sydney last night as a brisk southerly change moved through the region but firefighters warned it was unlikely to douse the fires.  "The immediate environs of Sydney have not faced a threat like this in 20 to 30 years," Mr Koperberg said earlier. Thousands of firefighters yesterday battled two massive firestorms on the city's northern and southern outskirts whipped up by squally, unpredictable winds... Last night, more than 3000 firefighters across the state were working on 66 blazes that had burnt out more than 44,000ha of bushland. Sydney workers asked to leave work early as a blaze near Berowra, in Sydney's far north, threatened to cut the F3 freeway and rail line linking the city with the central coast and Newcastle. The links were eventually closed at about 7pm. The fire had jumped the F3 last night and was burning in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. [...]

See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Tomorrow bushfire 'crunch day'
The Australian  December 07, 2002
PREMIER Bob Carr has warned that tomorrow will be "crunch day" for firefighters as weather conditions deteriorate a day earlier than expected. Mr Carr, on a tour of bushfire ravaged areas in southern Sydney today said a return of horrendous conditions was forecast for tomorrow, instead of Monday as earlier predicted. "The bad weather expected on Monday is now going to be upon us tomorrow," Mr Carr said.  "This gives us less time to backburn and prepare and tidy up, that's the bad news.  "We've only got today for that instead of two days." Mr Carr said conditions tomorrow could be as bad as they were on Wednesday and Thursday, when at least 20 homes were destroyed. "There is likely to be relief on mid-Monday with cooler conditions, but it's a crunch day tomorrow," he told reporters.
COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

$100m+ bushfire bill
The Australian December 08, 2002 [Abridged]
THE current NSW bushfire crisis is set to cost the state's taxpayers well over $100 million, Premier Bob Carr has said. The bill for last year's Christmas bushfires was about $100 million but with an earlier start to the crisis this year, the bill is expected to exceed that sum. "We expect the cost of these fires to be well over $100 million," Mr Carr told Sky News... The government was handing out $10,000 cash grants to residents whose homes were destroyed by bushfires and the giant helitankers on lease from the United States were costing tens of thousands of dollars each day to run... He also rejected suggestions his government had not done enough to prepare the state for bushfires and said a national structure to help coordinate firefighting efforts would make no difference on the ground.
COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

End in sight: RFS
The Australian December 08, 2002 [Abridged]
THE end of NSW's current bushfire crisis is in sight, fire chiefs predicted.  Kinder weather and two days of "superhuman" work by firefighters had Rural Fire Service chiefs confident tonight that the worst of the bushfire threat had passed. Today, to the relief of exhausted firefighters and anxious residents, the feared "day from hell" predicted by weather forecasters failed to materialise. There were flare-ups in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney which destroyed at least one home, injured a firefighter and came dangerously close to the historic Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath. But elsewhere containment lines held amid predictions the crisis would ease considerably tomorrow...  "By tomorrow, we should see this crisis begin to ease considerably," Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg said... Elsewhere today, Prime Minister John Howard toured Sydney's north comforting those who had lost their homes and praising the work of volunteers and professional firefighters... Premier Bob Carr and opposition leader John Brogden also toured fire-affected areas as it emerged the current fire crisis would cost NSW taxpayers well over $100 million.
COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Hope for Sydney as fires yield
NZ Herald Monday December 09, 2002
SYDNEY - Firefighters appear to have gained the upper hand in battling bushfires around Sydney, raising hopes that the worst could be over. Cooler weather was forecast for today and showers were expected tomorrow, offering hope of relief to the 4500 firefighters who have fought to contain the bushfires.  "Conditions are easing, but it's still going to take a good couple of weeks to mop up," Rural Fire Service spokeswoman Nicole Ingram said. Sydney woke beneath a thick blanket of acrid, purplish smoke again yesterday as about 70 bushfires burned throughout New South Wales... Rural Fire Service Commissioner Phil Koperberg said conducive weather might allow them to start mopping up the worst fires by midweek.

COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Rain dampens Sydney bushfires for now
NZ Herald Thursday December 12, 2002
SYDNEY - Soaking rain fell on Sydney today to end the city's six-day bushfire emergency that killed one man, destroyed about 50 homes and left large tracts of bush scorched and blackened... After nine days, a fire ban was lifted across New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state, where 4,500 firefighters have been battling more than 60 fires. Some fires are still burning...There are still 57 fires burning across NSW, with 120,000 hectares burnt... Fire officials said some of the fires were so large it would take days of heavy rain to extinguish them, while burning tree stumps could spark new blazes... Firefighters have been battling bushfires since July, in the middle of Australia's winter. By the end of November, 470,000 hectares in New South Wales had been scorched...

COMMENT: See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)

Singing in the rain in states of relief
The Australian December 11, 2002 [Abridged]
RAIN fell through the entire central and eastern halves of NSW and southeastern Queensland yesterday, the most widespread and intense falls Australia has seen for more than a year. While the event in itself may not be enough to end the drought, the rain delighted firefighters and went a long way to providing relief to desperate farmers.  Brisbane airport had to be shut yesterday afternoon after 30mm of rain fell in 10 minutes, accompanied by 120km/h wind gusts. There were 525 lightning strikes recorded in five minutes as a line of thunderstorms passed over Brisbane shortly before 6pm, causing traffic chaos, flash flooding and leaving 85,000 homes across southeast Queensland without power. The storms also hit the Gold Coast and the Darling Downs around Toowoomba. Falls of up to 70mm were recorded in the Gatton and Beaudesert areas west and south of Brisbane. Much of Sydney received more than 30mm, with Homebush getting 41mm. There were even heavier falls in the Hunter Valley and further north. Gosford on the NSW central coast had 68mm of rain from 9am. The highest rainfall in the previously parched Hunter Valley, the scene of massive bushfires in recent weeks, was 94mm at Tocal. Parts of the southern tablelands recorded up to 30mm in the 24 hours to 9am yesterday, including Goulburn, Crookwell and Bungonia. Solid falls were also recorded throughout the state's central west.
 Anthony Cornelius from the consultancy firm Weatherwatch said the widespread rainfall was a result of a surface low-pressure trough combining with a trough of cold air in the upper atmosphere, causing massive atmospheric instability. Mr Cornelius said the rain began in the central areas of the country. [...]

See TWM email to Premier Bob Carr (06 Dec 2002)