Humpty Doo Firestorm - 26 May 2003

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S_DCP_6330.JPGLooking South-East, where the fire came from. At this point, the fire is still a good 0.5km away, but it sounds like a huge waterfall roaring in the distance I've only just come home from work and am presented with this. I could see the smoke for miles, just did not know that the fire was this close to my place. At least I'm here, my neighbours are still at work..
This is looking in the opposite direction, where the huge plume of smoke is blocking the afternoon sun. All these photos before the fire got here, were taken from the roof of my house.
The fire is getting closer, visibility is getting worse and there is ash flying around everywhere. The wind is also picking up and the birds in the air are feasting on insects that are being blown along. I'm being inundated by tiny cockroaches!
The flames are now visible. Still no sign of the bush fire brigade. The fire is moving at a rapid pace, being driven by the strong south-easterly winds.
The fire front seems to be aiming directly for my block of land. There is only the dirt road and some of my bamboo between the land opposite and my house. And being the Dry Season, the land is very dry. Luckily, my grass is short.
The fire brigade arrived. They're trying to backburn (see the flames in the foreground), but the main front is catching up too quickly for it to be of any use. I have my sprinkler system running along the fenceline and the hoses ready around the house - just in case. It has taken only a little bit over five minutes from the first picture to now.
The closeness of the fire has brought with it its own wind. What does one do in a situation like this? Probably not take photos from the roof of the house, but there is just nothing else that I can do at the moment.
The fire is not definitely here. It is very dark, it is very windy and breathing is hard to do - the oxygen seems to be consumed by the fire and has been replaced by ash instead.
This was going to be a photo of some spot fires on my block, but my instinct to get moving seems to have been quicker than the camera was able to take the photo, hence the rather blurry image.
These photos were all taken after the flames abated. I did not have time to take photos while the fire brigade was fighting the spot fires on my block. The two black spots in the centre of the image are from some of the spot fires that started because of flying embers. I feel that my bamboo "hedge" caused enough turbulence to bring the embers down within about 10m of the fence - that is after the embers overflew the good 20m wide road and verge. The house is 50m back at this point.
This spot fire is at the back of the block, where there is no protection from any bamboo hedge. This fire started about 50m into the block, that is how far the embers managed to be carried. I'm certainly glad that I mowed my grass ...

This is the view of the back yard o my neighbours. They've got a fire break, but still lots of tall and dry grass on the inside of the block. If the embers would have made it to here, the flames would have continued over several more blocks. I certainly learned the benefit of the 4m firebreaks that we are required to have. They don't stop fire, not at all, as can be seen the fire can easily jump 70m. But the firebrigade needs access to the areas to fight the flames, and that's where the firebreaks are important. I have firebreaks, but they have a few too many "bends" in them, where it diverts around some small trees. Unfortunately, in the interest of safety, the trees will have to go to straighten the firebreak.

All is well though this time. No damage was done to any property or people. The firebrigade got here in time and in force and were busy most of the evening to fight the fire either side of my property, where the flames reached the road later on. It is assumed that the fire was deliberately lit by a fire bug. The four 320 acre properties that were burned out are not inhabited.

On the positive side: there won't be any more burns here this year, hence no more ash and smells. And as it is still early in the Dry Season, the bushland should quickly recover and turn green again. Afterall, this is an annual occurrence up here, just that it is normally done in a controlled manner by the fire brigade and on a day that does NOT have such super strong south-easterly winds blowing straight towards all the housing here.

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Page last updated 18 June, 2003

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