2009 Victorian bushfires

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The 2009 Victorian bushfires on Saturday 7 February 2009 were the worst bushfires in Australia's history, surpassing both the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 and the Black Friday fires in 1939.

Contents

Kilmore East and Murrindindi Mill initial fire tracks

Initial track of the fires that started at Kilmore East and Murrindindi Mill.

Note: this map is not accurate

Note that the Kilmore East fire later travelled North East (after the southerly wind change) to burn Flowerdale.

Chronology of the fires

Wednesday 28 January 2009
Delburn fire started in Gippsland, arson suspected.
Monday 2 February 2009.
Bunyip State Park fire started by lightning
Saturday 7 February 2009. Black Saturday
Horsham fire started at 12:30
Kilmore fire started on farmland at about 14:30
Wandong, Kinglake West, Strathewan, Kinglake and Steels Creek and Flowerdale townships burnt.
Murrindindi Mill fire started, arson suspected.
Narbethong and Marysville townships burnt.
Churchill fire started, arson suspected.
Bendigo fire started at 16:30
17:00 Wind direction changed from northerly to southerly in Melbourne
Beechworth fire started at 19:00
Sunday 8 February 2009.
Kilmore and Murrindindi Mill fires merge to form the Kinglake fire complex.
Wilsons Promontory fire started by lightning

Weather

The fires came as Melbourne reached its hottest ever temperature of 46.4 degrees.[1]

The extremely hot temperatures were accompanied by very strong north westerly winds, which changed to strong south easterly winds in the late afternoon.

Wind chart from Fawkner Beacon in Port Phillip bay illustrating wind change to Southerly at approximately 5pm in Melbourne

Impacts of fires

Deaths

  • As at February 18, 2009, 201 people are reported dead.
  • Over 1 million native animals are estimated to have died.

Carbon emissions

Millions of tonnes of carbon have been released to the atmosphere. Australia's total emissions per year are around 330m tonnes of CO2. Previous research has shown that the bush fires in 2003 and 2006-07 had put up to 105m tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because they burned up land carrying 50 to 80 tonnes of carbon per hectare. This time, however, the forests being destroyed are even more carbon-rich, with more than 100 tonnes of above-ground carbon per hectare. The affected area is more than twice the size of London and takes in more than 20 towns north of Melbourne, so the CO2 emissions from this year's disaster could be far larger than previous fires.[2]

Water harvest falls

Water collection in dams affected by Victoria's bushfires could fall by 30 per cent in the decades ahead, Melbourne Water officials have warned. Three of Melbourne's four most important reservoirs have had fires in their catchments during the past 10 days, with two of the catchments suffering significant damage. [3]

Causes of death

  • Radiant heat; trapped in dwelling for shelter or while defending against fire
  • Radiant heat; trapped in motor vehicle while attempting to evacuate
  • Motor vehicle accident while attempting to evacuate (not confirmed)

See also

References

  1. Death toll may reach more than 40: police, The Age, February 7, 2009
  2. Australian bushfires pump out millions of tonnes of carbon, guardian.co.uk
  3. Water harvest from dams may fall 30%, The Age, February 18, 2009

External links


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