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Category Archives: Forest Fires

Forest Fires

Indigenous fire knowledge the latest Australian export in an emerging global wildfire crisis

Bt Vanessa Milton
ABC News Australia
January 17, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

Victor Steffensen and Russel Myers Ross

…Australian Indigenous fire practitioner Victor Steffensen visited Tsilhqot’in territory on the invitation of the Yunesit’in and Xeni Gwet’in communities, part of the Tsilhqot’in Nation. “Indigenous burning is activating the landscape to bring it back to life,” Mr Steffensen said… “to look after biodiversity and stop the country burning to nothing”. In 2017, just three years after the Tsilhqot’in Nation won Aboriginal title to a vast area of their traditional homeland in a landmark ruling of the Canadian Supreme Court, large areas of Tsilhqot’in territory were destroyed in the largest wildfires in the region’s history. …The role of Indigenous knowledge systems in mitigating and adapting to climate change was recognised in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. …Mr Steffensen is due to return to Canada with the support of the Gathering Voices Society in April to continue his work with Tsilhqot’in communities to rebuild the practice of fire keeping.

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Canadian firefighters expect to use tailored tactics to battle blazes in Australia

The Canadian Press in the Globe and Mail
January 15, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

As Canadian firefighters boarded flights Wednesday to battle blazes in Australia, they said they will likely have to employ some different tactics than they do to fight local fires. In Halifax, the first three of 69 Canadian firefighters heading to the island continent said hotter temperatures and drier conditions call for different measures than typical East Coast fires, where water is plentiful and the blazes are slower. …Australian bush fires can spread quickly because of the lack of moisture, and response tactics often include extensive use of heavy equipment to clear gaps in the landscape. …“When we don’t have a lot of water … we may be constructing [fire] guards with bulldozers and plows – and if need be, hand tools – to create a fire break,” he said.

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‘Emotionally, it’s going to be difficult’: B.C. volunteer team heading to Australia to help rescue animals

By Dominika Lirette
CBC News
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

Brad Pattison

As bushfires continue to ravage Australia, an animal rescue team from Kelowna, B.C., is gearing up to go down under in about a week to try to help save wildlife. Ecologists estimate that approximately 480 million animals have died due to the fires, which have burned over five million hectares of land. Kelowna local Brad Pattison, dog trainer and former host of the TV reality show At the End of My Leash, will be joined by four other team members, to go to the Melbourne area where they will be working with some local organizations and sanctuaries to try to help dehydrated and injured animals. “My team is going down to help retrieve animals that will need help being rescued physically, but also there is a lot of work that needs to be done in these sanctuaries and rescue organizations because they’re just tapped, the people are exhausted,” he said.

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Canada offers more aid for Australia as bushfires burn across country

By Mia Rabson
The Canadian Press in CTV News
January 8, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

OTTAWA — Nearly 100 Canadian fire experts have been sent to Australia to help battle one of the worst wildfire seasons the country has ever seen, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told his Australian counterpart Wednesday the country is ready to do more. In a phone conversation with Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trudeau “expressed his condolences and sorrow on behalf of all Canadians for the deaths and destruction caused by the wildfires,” a statement from Trudeau’s office said afterward, and for “the major loss of wildlife and natural devastation.” “He recalled Australia’s past generous assistance to Canadian firefighters when wildfires spread through Canadian communities,” the statement went on. 

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Canada sends more fire specialists to Australia to help battle blazes, 95 to be deployed as of Monday

By Devika Desai
The Montreal Gazette
January 5, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

As more than 150 fires continued to ravage Australia over the weekend, Canada sent a fourth deployment of fire specialists to New South Wales to help battle the blazes that have so far killed 23 people, burned 5 million hectares of land and destroyed an estimated 480 million animals. Twenty-one personnel from across Canada departed Saturday night for the hardest hit state New South Wales, with a fifth deployment of eight specialists scheduled to depart for neighbouring Victoria on Monday night, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). A total of 95 Canadians from fire services in Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Parks Canada will be working in Australia this week.

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Sixty-nine Canadians giving up holidays to help with Australian wildfires

The Canadian Press in The Northern View
December 22, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada

Sixty-nine Canadians are giving up their holidays at home to join the battle for the first time against the deadly wildfires devastating vast tracts of several Australian states. …Kim Connors, the executive director of the Winnipeg based CIFFC, says that Canada has called on Australian firefighters four times since 2015, and the “agreements are reciprocal in nature so it was the first time that Australia has needed help from Canada.” …The CIFFC says crews from Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Yukon, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. are assisting with a variety of tasks including roles in command, aviation, planning, logistics and operations.

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Instead of being home for the holidays, Canadian firefighters head to Australia to battle wildfires

By Elizabeth Wolfe and Brian Ries
CNN
December 4, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, International

As deadly bushfires continue to burn across Australia, a delegation of Canadian wildfire experts has embarked on a month-long trip to aid in the country’s crisis. The group of 21 wildfire suppression experts left Vancouver on Tuesday and are not expected to return until early January, meaning they will be thousands of miles away from home for the holidays. As of Wednesday, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported there are 129 bushfires burning across southeastern region, 72 of which are uncontained. Specialists from Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry are among those assisting in Australia. Other members of the contingent come from fire management teams in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Canada’s national parks service, Parks Canada.

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Wildfire season has started in Alberta

By Shilpa Downton
Cochrane Now
March 4, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, Canada West

Effective this week, Wildfire season began in Alberta; one month earlier than in other jurisdictions and the season will remain in effect until the end of October. Research shows that wildfires are both starting earlier and lasting longer, and Alberta’s early fire season means that our firefighters are trained and positioned throughout the province sooner to better treat them. Human-caused wildfires are generally accidental in nature – often started by an out-of-control campfire or spark from an off-highway vehicle. Dead and dry grass, twigs, leaves and branches provide fuel for fast-moving grassfires. Whether started by accident or arson, wildfires can cause major environmental damage. While arson is a criminal offence, any unsafe fire-related behaviours can lead to hefty fines or charges for the person involved. While speaking of the wildfire risks, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen says that “Most wildfires are preventable.”

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Meet the NWT firefighters heading to Australia

By Sarah Pruys
Cabin Radio
January 17, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, Canada West

Marlon Labach, Raelene Lamalice, and Spencer Porter

The NWT government has revealed more about the mission four of the territory’s firefighters will carry out in Australia as wildfires continue to burn millions of hectares of bush, forest, and parks. Air support group supervisor Marlon Labach, resource unit leader Raelene Lamalice, air tanker base manager Spencer Porter, and aerial observer Jonathan Williams were scheduled to depart on January 16 and 17 from Vancouver. …Their deployment marks the first time the NWT has sent firefighters to the country. The four are expected to be in Australia for 30 days, doing similar jobs to what they do back home… The four firefighters will join 24 other wildfire personnel from across the country, environment minister Shane Thompson said on Thursday afternoon. They will be a part of the sixth deployment from Canada since Australia’s wildfire crisis began.

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B.C. sends emergency crews to Australia to help combat fires of a biblical scale

By Travis Lupick
The Georgia Straight
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, Canada West

January is usually a quiet month for B.C.’s Wildfire Service. The Pacific Northwest’s cold temperatures and buckets of near-daily rain mean there aren’t a lot of forest fires burning throughout the province during the winter . This year, however, a growing number of B.C. firefighters are working hard in Australia. And while in recent years B.C. has experienced record-breaking wildfires of a disastrous scale, the problem here is nothing compared to what Australia is dealing with right now. “Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive bushfires across Australia,” reads a January 6 report by BBC News. …The B.C. Wildfire Service sent seven firefighters to Australia on December 3 and then another six on December 20. They’re serving there among a total of 45 Canadian firefighters currently in Australia on 38-day deployments. Canada and Australia routinely exchange firefighting resources.

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BC Minister’s statement on Australian wildfire support

By Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Government of British Columbia
December 3, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada, Canada West

Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, has issued the following statement regarding the deployment of BC Wildfire Service staff to Australia: “On Dec. 3, 2019, the BC Wildfire Service will send seven of its operational personnel to Australia to assist with firefighting efforts there, as part of a contingent of 22 Canadians. It’s only late spring in Australia, but an early and extreme wildfire season in the eastern part of the country has already stretched Australia’s firefighting resources and led to fatalities, property losses and the destruction of large areas of New South Wales and Queensland. Currently, Australia has about 1,100 firefighters working on its wildfires. The Australian government has reached out to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for assistance, and British Columbia will deploy some of our highly trained wildfire services staff. …The Canadian contingent leaves for a 38-day deployment, with an anticipated return date of Jan. 10, 2020. 

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Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry operations manager recalls past 5 weeks in Australia planning attack on wildfires

CBC News
January 24, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada East, Canada

Jamie Gaunt

Jamie Gaunt, fire operations tech with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry, has spent the past five weeks helping battle wildfires in Australia. Gaunt travelled to New South Wales on Dec. 19 to begin work as an operations officer assigned to help with wildfires there, working with incident controllers at the base, while firefighters were in the field. “We call it a big War Room where decisions are made and I was specifically operations, so basically just running the resources, planning the day on where we were going to put crews, how we were going to attack the fire,” he said. …Those first few days of helping his Aussie counterparts were overwhelming for Gaunt, as he tried to figure out that country’s fire system. “Fire is fire, it’s kind of a global thing, but everybody kind of does things a little bit different,” he said.

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Ontario sends 19 fire specialists to help fight wildfires raging across Australia

By Cathy Alex
CBC News
January 8, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: Canada East, Canada

Ontario has deployed 19 fire specialists, all from the northern part of the province, to help fight the wildfires raging across Australia. Record high temperatures and a long drought have combined to create a catastrophic fire season in the southern hemisphere nation. The resulting inferno has caused the deaths of at least 26 people, the destruction of approximately 2,000 homes and killed countless birds, animals and other wildlife. Officials in the state of New South Wales said the amount of area burned is now 20 times larger than an average year, with flames scorching over 60,000 square kilometres of southeastern Australia. The Ontario group, all from the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), are serving in a variety of roles, said Jonathan Scott, a MNRF fire information officer.

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Oregon versus Australia wildfires: There’s no comparison

By Adam Duvernay
The Statesman Journal
January 20, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: United States, International

The images coming out of Australia have been described as apocalyptic. Bushfires have raged across that continent for months and have shown few signs of slowing down. Death, displacement and the potential for long-term ecological damage have come in their wake. Even in the Pacific Northwest, where wildfires are common and expected to become more so as the climate changes, there is nothing in North America that can compare to the Australian fires. …How do the Australian fires compare with the worst wildfires in Oregon? Australia is about 3 million square miles. More than 32,400 square miles of Australia have burned, about 1% of the whole country. …Like Oregon, Australia has a fire season. It typically peaks in January. But this season has been longer and more intense.

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US sends more firefighters to help battle Australia blazes

By Keith Ridler
The Associated Press in the Independent Record
January 8, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: United States

BOISE, Idaho — U.S. officials said Tuesday they’re planning to send at least another 100 firefighters to Australia to join 159 already in the country battling wildfires that have killed 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said that 90 firefighters including on-the-ground hand crews left in recent days to fight fires that have scorched an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland. Another 100 American firefighters are expected to fly to Australia next week, said center spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao. It’s the largest ever deployment of U.S. firefighters abroad, she said. The Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council requested the firefighters as part of a reciprocal deal that sent 138 Australians to fight U.S. wildfires in 2018. The U.S. has similar agreements with Canada, Mexico and New Zealand.

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US sends veteran firefighters to battle Australia wildfires

The Associated Press in the Washington Post
January 4, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: United States, International

LOS ANGELES — A crew of 20 veteran firefighters based in California will head to Australia on Monday to help battle the country’s out-of-control wildfires that have killed at least 23 people and scorched millions of acres. The crew of federal firefighters based in the Angeles National Forest north of Los Angeles will depart on Monday, said Carrie Bilbao, a spokeswoman with the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, which is mobilizing U.S. resources in response to Australia’s requests for international firefighting aide. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management already have provided a few dozen people, most of them with experience managing fires, Bilbao said Saturday. The crew leaving on Monday will replace a group of personnel sent to Australia in early December.

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Why Tech Has Been Slow to Fight Wildfires, Extreme Weather

The Associated Press in the New York Times
January 22, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: United States, US West

SAN FRANCISCO — For three years running, California’s wildfires have sent plumes of smoke across Silicon Valley. So far, though, that hasn’t spurred much tech innovation aimed at addressing extreme-weather disasters associated with climate change. …But among startups who provide much of tech innovation, things are still moving slowly. That’s partly a lingering hangover from a cleantech investment bust almost a decade ago. But the technology itself can also take years to prove and even longer to convince traditional utilities and government agencies to adopt. …Other startups are attempting to tackle wildfires head-on. Chooch AI, an artificial intelligence company based in San Francisco, is using a system that analyzes satellite images every 10 minutes to identify where new wildfires may have broken out. …Another startup hoping to prevent fires from spreading is Ladera Tech, a company founded by a former forestry manager and a Stanford University professor.

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North Carolina’s famed Cold Mountain is on fire

The Associated Press
November 21, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: US East, United States

ASHEVILLE — North Carolina’s famed Cold Mountain is on fire. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Thursday at a U.S. Forest Service video shows orange flames and white smoke along multiple spots on the mountain’s ridge. The mountain has been featured in a popular novel and an award-winning movie. Charles Frazier’s best-selling book “Cold Mountain” is about a Confederate soldier’s journey through western North Carolina. …The forest service didn’t release details on what might have caused the fire or where it started. The Shining Rock Wilderness area is temporarily closed because of the fire. The mountain is about 35 miles from the city of Asheville.

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China state media reports 19 people killed in forest fire

Associated Press in the Victoria Times Colonist
March 30, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

BEIJING — Nineteen people have died while fighting a raging forest fire in southwestern China and hundreds of reinforcements were sent to fight the blaze and evacuate nearby residents, officials and state media reported Tuesday.  he area threatened by the fire in Sichuan province is thinly populated, but there was no estimate on how many people were leaving the evacuation zone. State media have described villages, a school, a chemical plant and other places as under threat.  It wasn’t exactly clear when the deaths occurred, but an information officer in the city of Xichang was cited as saying the fire started on a farm Monday afternoon and quickly spread to nearby mountains due to strong winds. It said one of those killed was a guide and the rest were firefighters.

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In Australia’s Most Populous State, ‘All Fires Are Contained’

By Jamie Tarabay
The New York Times
February 14, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

SYDNEY, Australia — Wildfires that began in September, consumed millions of acres of forest and burned through beachside towns and suburbs are finally out in most of New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, emergency services said Friday. Some fires in the southern part of the state still haven’t been extinguished, said Rob Rogers, the deputy commissioner of the NSW Rural Fire Service, but they are under control. “All fires are contained, so we can really focus on helping people rebuild,” Mr. Rogers said. Fires continue to trouble firefighters in the southeastern state of Victoria, officials said. But torrential rain that has swept much of the eastern coast of Australia over the past week has helped put out many of the last few blazes.

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State of emergency declared in Australia’s capital as authorities warn of severe bushfire danger

By Byron Kaye and Colin Packham
Reuters in the Globe and Mail
January 30, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Australian authorities warned on Friday of severe fire danger in densely populated areas this weekend, declaring a state of emergency in the capital, Canberra, as soaring temperatures and strong whipped up huge, unpredictable blazes. With temperatures above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), emergency officials urged people to prepare for fires in parts of the southeast including hundreds of miles of coast south of Sydney that has already been badly hit in months of blazes. “Tomorrow will be the peak of the heat wave in NSW with some areas expected to reach extreme heat wave conditions,” the New South Wales (NSW) state Rural Fire Service said on Friday. Australia’s bushfires that have killed 33 people and an estimated 1 billion native animals since September. …In neighbouring New Zealand, where smoke from the Australian blazes has turned glaciers brown, firefighters were battling to contain about 25 fires that spread rapidly to cover about 100 hectares on the South Island.

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‘Testament of what Alberta can offer’: Alberta firefighter recalls stint fighting bushfires in Australia

By Anna Junker
The Edmonton Journal
January 19, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

A cohort of Canadian wildfire firefighters recently returned to the frozen tundra, after a stint down under helping fight the out-of-control bushfires raging across Australia. On Jan. 9, Morgan Kehr, director of wildfire operations with Alberta Wildfire, landed back in Edmonton after spending 39 days in New South Wales, a state that’s been seeing the brunt of the wildfire destruction. Kehr was part of a group of 21 Canadian firefighters who arrived in Australia at the start of December and said the reception from Australians was amazing. …The Canadian firefighters were mainly in incident management roles, helping with the logistics of fighting the fires. Some are also helping with the aviation units.

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Thunderstorms sweep across Australia’s bushfire-ravaged east coast

By Linda Kelly
Reuters
January 15, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

MELBOURNE — Thunderstorms and heavy rain swept across parts of Australia’s east coast on Thursday, bringing hope that some of the fierce bushfires razing the country will be extinguished – or at least slowed. Officials warned, however, that short, intense thunderstorms could lead to flash flooding, while lightning brought the risk of new fires being ignited. “We’re expecting unsettled weather for the next four or five days or so at least,” Jake Phillips, a senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology told Australian Broadcasting Corp radio. …The wet weather brought some respite from the smoke haze that has plagued Australia’s major cities for weeks and has been tracked by NASA circumnavigating the globe. …Fire and weather officials have also warned the current cool and wet weather change will only be a temporary relief.

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Melbourne smothered in smoke as Australian bushfires burn despite cool change

Reuters in the Vancouver Sun
January 13, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

SYDNEY — Australia’s devastating bushfire season is far from over despite cooler weather this week, Victorian state officials warned on Tuesday as Melbourne was blanketed by hazardous smoke. At least 180 fires continued to burn across Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) states although widespread rainfall is forecast for fire-hit areas on the east coast from Wednesday. About 20 bushfires were yet to be contained in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, while in Victoria five fires were at the ‘Watch and Act’ advice warning, one level below emergency status, authorities said. “I wish I could say this was over, but we have a long way to go. We’ve got the smoke in our communities at the moment and it is at very poor or hazardous levels,” said Lisa Neville, Victoria’s emergency services and police minister. Brett Sutton, the state’s chief health officer, said air quality in Melbourne dropped to the “worst in the world” overnight…

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Australia turns from defense to offense in wildfire battle

By Rick Rycroft
The Herald and News
January 12, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

BODALLA, Australia (AP) — Crews battling Australia’s wildfires said Sunday that they have been able to turn from defense to offense for the first time in weeks thanks to a break in the weather. Dale McLean, who is helping manage the response to a fire near the town of Bodalla in New South Wales state, was part of team that was bulldozing down small trees and burning scrub ahead of the fire’s projected path to try to stop it from reaching a major highway by starving it of fuel. Other workers echoed McLean’s comments, saying cooler temperatures and mild winds have finally offered them a chance to make progress. The weather is expected to remain benign for the next week, although any deterioration in conditions after that could see the wildfires flare up again.

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Australia bushfires: Veteran firefighter killed overnight while battling blaze in Victoria

The Newshub
January 12, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Bill Slade

A veteran firefighter has been killed overnight while battling a bushfire in Victoria, bringing the total death toll from Australia’s worst-ever bushfire season to 28 nationwide. On Sunday, the sails of the iconic Sydney Opera House were aglow with a moving tribute to those who fought on the front line, as the news broke that another firefighter died while on duty. Bill Slade, 60, was killed by a falling tree as he was fighting a blaze in East Gippsland, the fourth person to be killed by Victoria’s devastating fires. “Bill contributed over 40 years [to] firefighting and caring for national parks in South Gippsland and I recently had the privilege of presenting him with his 40-year service recognition, which was an honour,” Parks Victoria CEO Matt Jackson said. Calmer conditions in recent days have allowed firefighters to concentrate on managing the blazes, with around 20 fires now contained across Victoria.

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World’s largest volunteer force fights Australia’s wildfires

By Nick Perry
The Associated Press in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
January 9, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

TOMERONG, Australia — The wildfire was behaving erratically last week, and Doug Schutz and his team needed to… widen a firebreak. …If anybody was qualified to make that call, it was Schutz. He began volunteering with the Rural Fire Service in Australia’s New South Wales state some 53 years ago, at the age of 13, back when Land Rovers were used as firetrucks. Now captain of the Tomerong brigade, Schutz has also been the victim of a wildfire that burned down his business on Christmas Day in 2001. Schutz is part of an army of 72,000 people from across the state who make up the world’s largest volunteer fire service. They’ve been at the forefront of fighting wildfires that have devastated parts of Australia since September. At least 26 people have been killed by the fires, including three volunteer firefighters.

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Australia’s Wildfires and Climate Change Are Making One Another Worse in a Vicious, Devastating Circle

By Tara Law
Time Magazine
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

The hot, dry conditions that primed southeastern Australia’s forest and fields for the bushfires that have been ravaging the country since September are likely to continue, scientists warn — and climate change has likely made the situation much worse. …The Australian bushfires were exacerbated by two factors that have a “well-established” link to climate change: heat and dry conditions, says Stefan Rahmstorf, department head at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. In recent years, Australia has experienced long-term dry conditions and exceptionally low rainfall. Scientists say that droughts in the country have gotten worse over recent decades. At the same time, the country has recorded record high temperatures; last summer was the hottest on record for the country.

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Rural Fire Service Commissioner says hazard-reduction burns made his organisation ‘public enemy number one’

By Rani Hayman
ABC News Australia
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

New South Wales’s top fire brass has weighed in on a national debate about hazard-reduction burns, saying the practice made his organisation “public enemy number one” last year. Hazard reduction burns have come under the microscope in NSW…with some arguing more should have been done. NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons insists hazard reduction is an important element of fire prevention, but it’s not a panacea. …Federal Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce … attacked the Greens, claiming they did not support the practice — something the party’s politicians deny. The Commissioner has also defended fire management agencies… He said hazard reduction … did nothing to combat the massive “mega-fires” burning in NSW. “Hazard reduction burns that are only two years old, we’re seeing these fires on these bad days just skip straight through it,” he said. “We’re only seeing effective amelioration on fire spread through hazard reduction areas that have been done so in the last 12 months.”

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Australia fires: A visual guide to the bushfire crisis

BBC News
January 6, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Rain has brought some respite to the thousands of firefighters and volunteers tackling the blazes, which have been burning since September. The fires intensified over the past week, with a number towns evacuated. …In the worst-hit state, New South Wales (NSW), fire has affected almost five million hectares, destroying more than 1,300 houses and forcing thousands to seek shelter elsewhere. Hot, dry weather combined with prolonged drought and strong winds have created perfect conditions for fire to spread rapidly. About 130 fires were burning across the state on Monday, in the bush, mountain forests and national parks.

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New Zealand bushfires flare amid fears country becoming more ‘flammable’

By Eleanor Ainge roy
The Guardian
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Bushfire season has begun in New Zealand with hundreds of hectares of forest going up in flames at half a dozen separate blazes on the east coast of the North Island. Seven helicopters and two planes are working to combat the largest blaze, in the Waipatiki forest outside of Napier, with about 70 firefighters on the ground, Fire and Emergency said. Strong winds are exacerbating risky conditions, with thousands around the country also losing power due to damaged lines. New Zealand sends troops to help with Australian bushfires as Pacific nations offer support. …Fire and Emergency said it was “confident” it had enough resources to battle the blazes, despite more than 150 New Zealand firefighters being stationed in Australia to face the unprecedented fire crisis there.

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Australia to pay ‘whatever it takes’ to fight wildfires

By Nick Perry and Kristen Gelineau
The Associated Press in the Times Colonist
January 6, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s government said Monday it was willing to pay “whatever it takes” to help communities recover from deadly wildfires that have ravaged the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was committing an extra 2 billion Australian dollars toward the recovery effort in addition to the tens of millions of dollars that have already been promised. “The fires are still burning. And they’ll be burning for months to come,” Morrison said. “And so that’s why I outlined today that this is an initial, an additional, investment of $2 billion. If more is needed and the cost is higher, then more will be provided.” Morrison’s announcement of the funds, which will go toward rebuilding towns and infrastructure destroyed by the fires, came as the death toll from the disaster rose.  …Nationwide, at least 25 people have been killed and 2,000 homes destroyed.

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3,000 reservists called in as Australia’s wildfire crisis worsens

Epping Forest Guardian
January 4, 2020
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Saturday called up 3,000 defence force reservists as the threat of wildfires escalated on what shaped as a torrid weekend in at least three states. As temperatures in western Sydney reached 47 degrees Celsius, Mr Morrison said two more deaths had been confirmed on Saturday, bringing the toll since the country’s worst wildfire season on record began in September to 23. “We are facing another extremely difficult next 24 hours,” Mr Morrison told reporters, while also confirming his scheduled visits to India and Japan later this month had been postponed due to the ongoing situation. Australia was bracing for one of the worst days of the crisis yet on Saturday, as searing heat and strong winds were forecast to bring flames to more populated areas. Officials warned a fire in a national park west of Sydney had the potential to spread into the city’s outer western suburbs.

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‘The monster’: a short history of Australia’s biggest forest fire

By Harriet Alexander and Nick Moir
Sydney Morning Herald
December 20, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

On October 26, an unseasonably warm Saturday following a run of hot days, lightning stabbed at the ranges. One bolt made ground near a disused airstrip at Gospers Mountain, a densely grown area of the Wollemi National Park, and prickled the kindling into life. It would become the epicentre of the biggest forest fire to have started from a single ignition point that Australia has ever known. …The Gospers Mountain fire has now destroyed an area seven times the size of Singapore – more than 444,000 hectares from the western border of the Blue Mountains to the Central Coast hinterland, north to the Hunter Valley and south to the Hawkesbury and past the Bells Line of Road. Three weeks ago it combined with several fires to form a vast complex that has been dubbed “the mega fire”. To those living in its shadow, it is known as “the monster”.

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Australia’s most populous state declares wildfire emergency

By Tristan Lafayette
The Associated Press in the Herald and News
December 18, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales declared a seven-day state of emergency Thursday as oppressive conditions fanned around 100 wildfires. Around 2,000 firefighters were battling the blazes, half of which remain uncontrolled, with the support of U.S. and Canadian backup teams and personnel from the Australian Defence Force. The last state of emergency ran for seven days in mid-November amid “catastrophic” fire risk and was the first implemented in New South Wales since 2013. Central Sydney reached a maximum of 39 degrees Celsius (102 Fahrenheit) on Thursday, while outer suburbs scorched at 42 Celsius (108 F). …Around 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land has burnt nationwide during a torrid past few months, with six people killed and more than 800 homes destroyed. …Sydney’s air pollution levels on Thursday ranged from poor to hazardous.

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Australia fires: blazes ‘too big to put out’ as 140 bushfires rage in NSW and Queensland

By Ben Doherty and helen Davidson
The Guardian
December 8, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Dozens of fires will burn across Australia for weeks, fire authorities say, including a “mega-fire”, already the size of greater Sydney, that is too big to put out. Sunday there were 96 bush and grass fires in NSW – 47 of which were not contained. Five fires are at a watch and act level. …Already this fire season, six people have died and more than 1,000 homes have been lost across. The largest conflagration, the “mega fire” at Gospers Mountain near Sydney’s north-western outskirts, was likely to burn for weeks until substantial rain falls… The NSW Bureau of Meteorology said the largest fires simply could not be extinguished by water-bombing aircraft or firefighting crews on the ground. …The chief scientist at the Australian Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Dr Bidda Jones, said that, beyond the human cost of the fires, the widespread blazes would have a “major impact of biodiversity”.

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Two Manitobans head to Australia to help with wildfire fighting efforts

CBC News
December 2, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Two Manitobans who work with the province’s wildfire program are heading to Australia to help battle wildfires that have devastated parts of the country.  For weeks, Australian firefighters have been battling widespread bushfires that have destroyed hundreds of homes and killed hundreds of koalas. The two Manitobans are part of a contingent of 21 highly qualified Canadians who were selected by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) to travel to Australia. The agency had received an official request from Australian authorities to send help.  The team will help with planning, aviation and operations in wildfire fighting efforts.

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Fire in NSW Tallaganda forest downgraded to watch and act as Braidwood residents told to action fire plan

By Jake Evans and Niki Burnside
ABC News Australia
November 29, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the North Black Range fire after it jumped the Shoalhaven River west of Braidwood. The fire burning in the Tallaganda National Park, east of Canberra, was downgraded from emergency level to watch and act as a southerly change saw conditions ease late Friday night. The blaze is 12,000 hectares in size and just 1 kilometre from the town of Braidwood. Following the downgrade, the News South Wales Rural Fire Service has advised Braidwood residents to action their fire plan. “If your plan is to leave, leave now if the path is clear,” NSW RFS said on Twitter. There have been no reports of properties lost on Friday evening.  Rural Fire Service district officer Darren Marks said several spot fires that broke from the Tallaganda National Park have now joined up. 

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Sydney gasps for air as Australia bushfire smoke reaches record levels

By Sonali Paul and Colin Packham
The Globe and Mail
November 21, 2019
Category: Forest Fires
Region: International

The Australian state of New South Wales was gasping under the worst levels of air pollution ever recorded on Friday as smoke from widespread bushfires caused a spike in hospital visits and hazards including poor visibility for drivers. Sydney, the country’s most populous city, was blanketed in a thick haze for the fourth consecutive day, pushing it into a rare and repeat appearance in the list of top ten cities with the worst air pollution in the world. Even as a cooler change brought some relief for firefighters battling scores of blazes burning for days across four states, many of the 7.5 million residents of New South Wales switched from contemplating evacuation to avoid rapidly advancing wildfires to hiding indoors from the smoke. 

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Australian Forestry Group Warns of “Slow Motion” Economic Disaster After Fires

By Ernie Smith
Associations Now.com
January 7, 2020
Category: Forest Fires

The Australian Forest Products Association says the wildfires burning large swaths of the country’s forests will cause significant job losses and long-term economic damage. It’s calling for a national consensus to replant and better protect Australia’s forest “infrastructure.” The wildfires raging across Australia are likely to burn for weeks, but a deeper disaster could extend years into the future if steps aren’t taken to replenish lost forest plantations and make protecting and managing them a national priority. …AFPA is calling for the federal government to supply more fire-fighting resources to supplement those owned by plantation companies and state forest agencies; an effort to salvage “damaged, but still usable” timber after the fires are extinguished; and federal funding for “urgent replanting.”

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