Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The worst is yet to come...

Tasmania's fires are still burning out of control. Two of the biggest Victorian fires merged into one overnight, creating a mega-fire that stretches on a front of about 120km.

More than 400,000 hectares, a million acres, have burnt in Victoria and the worst is yet to come. High winds and hot temperatures will return tomorrow to fan the fires, with now 4,000 exhausted firefighters battling them. More than 400 firefighters have been injured.

Spokesman Kevin Monk said tomorrow would pose the biggest test for firefighters and communities since the weekend's extreme fire weather. “The weather forecast is for north-westerly winds over these fires, and building up in strength to 30 to 40 kilometres (per hour),” he said. Temperatures are forecast to be over 40C with low humidity. That's extreme fire weather.

Metropolitan Melbourne has a severe air quality health alert because of thick smoke. Australia has one of the world's highest percentages of people with asthma, and the air pollution will have bad consequences.

In Tasmania:

Towns at risk as fire changes course

December 13, 2006

TWO towns on Tasmania's northeast coast were placed on high alert last night after a bushfire that destroyed 18 homes in the sleepy surf village of Scamander switched direction.

Residents in Irish Town and St Marys, which are inland and south of Scamander, were battling smoke that had reduced visibility to just metres.

Shane Garwood and Ann Jetson, in Scamander yesterday, pick
through the ruins of the home they were soon to move into.
Picture: David Crosling

From an article on mega-fires which gives some idea of what the firefighting heroes are facing.

An unstoppable force

It goes off like an atomic bomb.

"You are talking about megawatts of energy," explains Rod Incoll, a fire risk management consultant. "It is a nuclear release of energy out of these so-called mega-fires. It is a title that leads one to exaggerate, but it is probably a fair description."

Mega-fires are typically formed from several fires, covering a huge area. They exhibit complex behaviour, create their own weather and are well beyond the most sophisticated attempts to control them.

They occur most frequently on the bush-urban interface, leaving in their wake total destruction of plant and animal life. These fires can pollute water supplies with ash and in subsequent years fill waterways with soil and gravel. Regenerating trees suck up rainfall, reducing water supplies for up to 50 years. Mega-fires also have the capacity to wreak permanent damage.

Some of the stories:

Animals probably won't make it.

Man charged with lighting Perth bushfire. Bastard!!

Towns at risk as fire changes course.

Residents await 'monster' fire.

Scamander faces regret and ruin.

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