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2019–20 Australian bushfire season facts for kids

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2019–20 Australian bushfire season
2019–20 Australian bushfire season
Clockwise from top left:

Sydney's George Street blanketed by smoke in December 2019; Orroral Valley fire seen from Tuggeranong; Damaged road sign along Bells Line of Road; Gospers Mountain bushfire; Smoke plume viewed from the ISS; Uncontained bushfire in South West Sydney.

Location Australia (nationwide)
Date June 2019 – May 2020
Fatalities
  • 34 direct
  • 445 indirect (smoke inhalation)

The 2019–20 Australian bushfire season, colloquially known as Black Summer, was a period of unusually intense bushfires in many parts of Australia.

In June 2019, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service acting director warned of the potential for an early start to the bushfire season which normally starts in August. The warning was based on the Northern Australia bushfire seasonal outlook noting exceptional dry conditions and a lack of soil moisture, combined with early fires in central Queensland. Throughout the summer, hundreds of fires burnt, mainly in the southeast of the country. The major fires peaked during December–January.

As of 9 March  2020 (2020 -03-09), the fires burnt an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres; 186,000 square kilometres; 72,000 square miles), destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including 2,779 homes) and killed at least 34 people. Nearly three billion terrestrial vertebrates alone – the vast majority being reptiles – were affected and some endangered species were believed to be driven to extinction. At its peak, air quality dropped to hazardous levels in all southern and eastern states. The cost of dealing with the bushfires is expected to exceed the A$4.4 billion of the 2009 Black Saturday fires, and tourism sector revenues fell by more than A$1 billion. However, economists estimated that the Australian bushfires may cost over A$103 billion in property damage and economic losses, making the bushfires Australia's costliest natural disaster to date. Nearly 80 percent of Australians were affected either directly or indirectly by the bushfires. By 7 January 2020, the smoke had moved approximately 11,000 kilometres (6,800 mi) across the South Pacific Ocean to Chile and Argentina. As of 2 January 2020, NASA estimated that 306 million tonnes (337 million short tons) of CO2 had been emitted.

From September 2019 to March 2020, fires heavily impacted various regions of the state of New South Wales. In eastern and north-eastern Victoria large areas of forest burnt out of control for four weeks before the fires emerged from the forests in late December. Multiple states of emergency were declared across New South Wales, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory. Reinforcements from all over Australia were called in to assist fighting the fires and relieve exhausted local crews in New South Wales. The Australian Defence Force was mobilised to provide air support to the firefighting effort and to provide manpower and logistical support. Firefighters, supplies and equipment from Canada, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States, among others, helped fight the fires, especially in New South Wales.

Burnt kangaroo rescue
Simon from Animal Relocation & Education in South Australia rescues a kangaroo joey with burnt feet 2 weeks after the Cudlee Creek Fire. The fires across Australia have killed and injured millions of Australian wildlife, stock and pets.

During the ensuing crisis, an air tanker and two helicopters crashed during firefighting operations, the air tanker crash resulting in the deaths of the three crew. Two fire trucks were caught in fatal incidents caused directly by fire conditions, killing three fire fighters.

By 4 March 2020, all fires in New South Wales had been extinguished completely (to the point where there were no fires in the state for the first time since July 2019), and the Victoria fires had all been contained. The last fire of the season occurred in Lake Clifton, Western Australia, in early May.

There has been considerable debate regarding the underlying cause of the intensity and scale of the fires, including the role of fire management practices and climate change, which during the peak of the crisis attracted significant international attention, despite previous Australian fires burning much larger areas (1974–75) or killing more people (2008–09). Politicians visiting fire impacted areas received mixed responses, in particular Prime Minister Scott Morrison. An estimated A$500 million was donated by the public at large, international organisations, public figures and celebrities for victim relief and wildlife recovery. Convoys of donated food, clothing and livestock feed were sent to affected areas.

Overview

On 12 November 2019, catastrophic fire danger was declared in the Greater Sydney region for the first time since the introduction of this level in 2009 and a total fire ban was in place for seven regions, including Greater Sydney. The Illawarra and Greater Hunter areas also experienced catastrophic fire dangers, and so did other parts of the state, including the already fire ravaged parts of northern New South Wales. The political ramifications of the fire season have been significant. A decision by the New South Wales Government to cut funding to fire services based on budget estimates, as well as a holiday taken by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, during a period in which two volunteer firefighters died, and his perceived apathy towards the situation, resulted in controversy.

Bushfire smoke over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge in December 2019
Bushfire smoke over the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge on 29 December

As of 14 January  2020 (2020 -01-14), 18.626 million hectares (46.03 million acres) was burnt or is burning across all Australian states and territories. Ecologists from The University of Sydney estimated 480 million mammals, birds, and reptiles were lost since September with concerns entire species of plants and animals may have been wiped out by bushfire, later expanded to more than a billion.

Since the start of the season, the ongoing bushfires have destroyed 2,176 homes, as well as 48 facilities and more than 2,000 outbuildings in New South Wales alone. Twenty people were confirmed to have been killed in New South Wales since October. The latest fatality was reported on 5 January 2020 following the death of a man in Batlow.

In New South Wales, the fires had burnt through more land than any other blazes in the past 25 years, in addition to being the state's worst bushfire season on record. NSW also experienced the longest continuously burning bushfire complex in Australia's history, having burnt more than 4 million hectares (9,900,000 acres), with 70-metre-high (230 ft) flames being reported. In comparison, the 2018 California wildfires consumed 800,000 hectares (2,000,000 acres) and the 2019 Amazon rainforest wildfires burnt 900,000 hectares (2,200,000 acres) of land.

Due to safety concerns and significant public pressure, New Year's Eve fireworks displays were cancelled across New South Wales including highly popular events at Campbelltown, Liverpool, Parramatta, and across Sydney's Northern Beaches, and as well in the nation's capital of Canberra. As temperatures reached 49 °C (120 °F), the New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian called a fresh seven-day state of emergency with effect from 9am on 3 January 2020.

State / territory Fatalities Homes
lost
Area
(estimated)
Notes
ha acres
Northern Territory 0 5 6,800,000 16,800,000 Area, includes mainly scrub fires, which are within the normal range of area burnt by bushfires each year; homes
New South Wales 26 2,448 5,500,000 13,600,000 Area; fatalities; homes
Queensland 0 48 2,500,000 6,180,000 Area, includes scrub fires; homes
Western Australia 0 1 2,200,000 5,440,000 Area, includes scrub fires; homes
Victoria 5 396 1,500,000 3,710,000 Area; fatalities; homes
South Australia 3 151 490,000 1,210,000 Area; fatalities; homes (KI:65) (AH:86)
Australian Capital Territory 0 0 86,464 213,660 Area
Tasmania 0 2 36,000 89,000 Area; homes
Total 34 3,500+ 18,736,070 46,300,000 Total area estimate as of 13 February 2020; current figure may be more

Regions affected

New South Wales

North Coast

On 6 September, the northern parts of the state experienced extreme fire dangers. Fires included the Long Gully Road fire near Drake which burnt until the end of October, killing two people and destroying 43 homes; the Mount McKenzie Road fire which burnt across the southern outskirts of Tenterfield, and severely injured one person, destroyed one home and badly damaged four homes; and the Bees Nest fire near Ebor which burnt until 12 November and destroyed seven homes.

Mid North Coast

At the Port Macquarie suburb of Crestwood a fire started on 26 October from a dry electrical storm. Water bombers were delayed the following day in attempts to bring the fire burning in swampland to the south west of Port Macquarie under control. A back burn on 28 October got away from New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSWRFS) volunteers after a sudden wind change pushing the fire south towards Lake Cathie and west over Lake Innes. Port Macquarie and surrounding areas were blanketed in thick smoke on 29 October with ongoing fire activity over the following week caused the sky to have an orange glow. During this time the Lindfield Park fire burning in dry peat swamp flared up and threatened homes at Sovereign Hills and crossed the Pacific Highway at Sancrox. These fires burnt 4,500 hectares (11,120 acres).

AwabaFire2019
Smoke caused by a fire in Awaba

On the Carrai Plateau west of Kempsey, a fire burnt in wilderness areas where locked up and poorly maintained fire trails made combating it difficult. This fire joined up with the Stockyard Creek fire and together with the Coombes Gap fire and swept east towards Willawarrin, Temagog, Birdwood, Yarras, Bellangary, Kindee and Upper Rollands Plains. Land around Nowendoc and Yarrowich was also burnt. This fire burnt more than 40,000 hectares (98,842 acres), destroying numerous homes and claiming the lives of three people.

North-west of Harrington near the Cattai Wetlands a fire started on 28 October, this fire threatened the towns of Harrington, Crowdy Head and Johns River as it burnt north towards Dunbogan. This fire claimed one life at Johns River, where it also destroyed homes, and burnt more than 12,000 hectares (29,653 acres).

Family home destroyed
House destroyed in Hillville, NSW on 12 November 2019

At Hillville, a fire grew large due to hot and windy conditions, resulting in disorder in the nearby town of Taree, to the north. Buses were called in early to take students home before the fire threat became too dangerous. On 9 November, the fire reached Old Bar and Wallabi Point, threatening many properties. The following two days saw the fire reach Tinonee and Taree South, threatening the Taree Service Centre. Water bombers dropped water on the facility to protect it. The fire briefly turned in the direction of Nabiac before wind pushed it towards Failford. Other communities affected included Rainbow Flat, Khappinghat, Kooringhat and Purfleet. A spot fire jumped into Ericsson Lane, threatening businesses. It ultimately burnt 31,268 hectares (77,260 acres).

Home & Machinery Shed Destroyed
The Hillville fire destroyed this house and machinery shed on a farm in Hillville on 14 November 2019

At Dingo Tops National Park a small fire turned into a massive bushfire emergency as it impacted the small village of Bobin; numerous homes and the Bobin Public School were destroyed in the fire. Fourteen homes were lost on one street in Bobin. The NSWRFS sent out alerts to people in Killabakh, Upper Lansdowne, Kippaxs, Elands, and Marlee to monitor conditions.

2019 Rally Australia, planned to be the final round of the 2019 World Rally Championship, was a motor racing event scheduled to be held in Coffs Harbour across 14–17 November. A week before the rally was due to begin, the bushfire began to affect the region surrounding Coffs Harbour, with event organisers shortening the event in response to the deteriorating conditions. With the situation worsening, repeated calls from competitors (most of which were European-based) to cancel the event prevailed with the event cancelled on 12 November.

In late December 2019, fires started on both sides of the Pacific Highway around the Coopernook region. They burnt 278 hectares (687 acres) before they were brought under control.

Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury

Gospers Mountain Fire
Gospers Mountain bushfire in December 2019

A large fire in November at Gospers Mountain in the Wollemi National Park burnt over 496,976 ha (1,228,050 acres) and threatened homes in the Hawkesbury and Lithgow areas. The fire was projected to burn towards the Central Coast and potentially threaten properties in Wisemans Ferry and other townships.

In an attempt to protect the Blue Mountains from the Gospers Mountain bushfire, firefighters commenced a large backburn on 14 December in the Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine area. Due to heavy fuel loads and erratic weather conditions, the backburn quickly grew out of control, threatening houses in Mount Wilson and Mount Irvine. The fire eventually jumped Mount Irvine Road and on 15 December, under deteriorating conditions, the fire impacted Mount Tomah, Berambing and Bilpin. The fire destroyed numerous houses and buildings in this area, and then jumped the Bells Line of Road into the Grose Valley.

Bells Line of Road Bushfire Damage JAN2020
Damaged road signs along Bells Line of Road

On 19 December the Gospers Mountain fire impacted on the Darling Causeway between Mount Victoria and Bell, it later jumped the Darling Causeway and impacted the Grose Valley and the fire would be split into two fires: Grose Valley fire and Gospers Mountain fire. On 21 December, a catastrophic day, the Grose Valley fire impacted Mount Victoria, Blackheath, Bell, Clarence, Dargan and Bilpin with resultant destruction of dozens of homes. On the same days both the Gospers Mountain fire and the Grose Valley fire moved towards Kurrajong. Back burning operations were put in place to save Kurrajong and surrounds and to save all Blue Mountains towns from Katoomba to Winmalee.

By 15 December, the Gospers Mountain fire had grown to 350,000 hectares (860,000 acres), making it the biggest forest fire in Australian history. As of 27 December, the Gospers Mountain fire had burnt over 500,000 hectares (1,200,000 acres); and, after burning approximately 512,000 hectares (1,270,000 acres) across the Lithgow, Hawkesbury and Central Coast local government areas, the NSW Rural Fire Service reported the fire as contained on 12 January 2020, stating that the fire was caused by a lightning strike on 26 October.

Sydney

Sydney bushfire smoke on George St (49197319478)
George Street in the Sydney CBD blanketed by smoke in December 2019
Bushfire in Prospect Hill
Bushland in Prospect Hill, Sydney charred after grass fire.
Bushfire destroys house
Firefighters work to save a burning house from an out-of-control bushfire in South West Sydney
Werombi Bushfire
Fire crews move in to protect properties from an out-of-control bushfire in South West Sydney

On 12 November, under Sydney's first ever catastrophic fire conditions, a fire broke out in the Lane Cove National Park south of Turramurra. Under strong winds and extreme heat the fire spread rapidly, growing out of control and impacting the suburban interface across South Turramurra. One house caught alight in Lyon Avenue, but was saved by quick responding firefighters. As further crews arrived and worked to protect properties, a C-130 Air Tanker made several fire retardant drops directly over firefighters and houses, saving the rest of the suburb. The fire was ultimately brought under control several hours later, with one firefighter injured suffering a broken arm.

Because of the bushfires occurring in the surrounding regions, the Sydney metropolitan area suffered from dangerous smoky haze for several days throughout December, with the air quality being eleven times the hazardous level in some days, making it even worse than New Delhi's, where it was also compared to "smoking 32 cigarettes" by Associate Professor Brian Oliver, a respiratory diseases scientist at the University of Technology Sydney.

On 10 December the fire impacted the south-western Sydney suburbs of Nattai and Oakdale, followed by Orangeville and Werombi, threatening hundreds of houses and resulting in the destruction of one building. The fire continued to flare up sporadically, coming out of the dense bush and threatening properties in Oakdale and Buxton on 14 and 15 December. The fire moved south-east towards the populated areas of the Southern Highlands and impacted the townships of Balmoral, Buxton, Bargo, Couridjah and Tahmoor in far south-western Sydney. Substantial property losses occurred across these areas, in particular multiple fire trucks were overrun by fire, with several firefighters taken to hospital and two airlifted in critical condition. Later that night, two firefighters were killed when a tree fell onto the road and their tanker rolled, injuring three other crew members. The situation deteriorated on 21 December when the fire changed direction and attacked Balmoral and Buxton once more from the opposite side, with major property losses in both areas. On New Years Eve there were fears of this fire impacting the towns of Mittagong, Braemar, and surrounding areas.

On 31 December, a grass fire broke out in the sloped woodlands of Prospect Hill, in Western Sydney, where it headed north towards Pemulwuy along the Prospect Highway. The fire impacted a large industrial area and threatened numerous properties before being brought under control by 9:30pm. Approximately 10 hectares (25 acres) and a number of historic Monterey pine trees were burnt.

The Sydney City fireworks display was allowed to continue with a special exemption from fire authorities, despite protests. Despite warnings from authorities, numerous fires were sparked across Sydney as a result of illegal fireworks, including a blaze which threatened properties at Cecil Hills in Sydney's south west.

On 4 January, Sydney’s western suburb Penrith recorded its hottest day on record at 48.9 °C (120.0 °F) making it the hottest place on Earth at the time.

On 5 January, a fire broke out in bushland at Voyager Point in Sydney's south-west, spreading rapidly under a strong southerly wind and impacting numerous houses in Voyager Point and Hammondville. As the fire moved north, authorities closed the M5 Motorway due to smoke conditions and prepared for the fire to impact the New Brighton housing estate. Firefighters on the ground assisted by numerous waterbombing aircraft held the fire south of the motorway and prevented any property losses, containing the fire to 60 hectares (150 acres).

Southern Highlands

In late October, a number of fires started in remote bushland near Lake Burragorang in the Kanangra-Boyd National Park south-west of Sydney. Due to the extreme isolation of the area and rugged inaccessible terrain, firefighters struggled to contain the fires as they began to spread through the dense bushland. These multiple fires ultimately all merged together to become the Green Wattle Creek fire. The fire continued to grow in size and intensity, burning towards the township of Yerranderie. Firefighters undertook backburning around the town whilst helicopters and fixed wing aircraft worked to control the spread of the fire. The fire passed Yerranderie but continued to burn through the national park towards south-western Sydney. On 5 December under severe weather conditions, the fire jumped the Lake Burragorang and began burning towards populated areas within the Wollondilly area.

Yanderra Bushfire
Large out-of-control bushfire approaches the New South Wales township of Yanderra

On 19 December, the fire continued east towards the Hume Highway (resulting in its closure for several hours), impacting the township of Yanderra. Over the following days as the fire continued to progress to the south east, both Yerrinbool and Hill Top were threatened by the fire.

As well as expanding to the south and east, the fire also spread in a westerly direction, headed towards Oberon. The Oberon Correctional Centre was evacuated in anticipation of the advancing fire impact along its western flank. On 2 January, the fire hit the popular and historic Jenolan Caves area, destroying multiple buildings including the local fire station. The centrepiece of the precinct, Jenolan Caves House, was saved.

South Coast

Catastrophic fire warning day 0049nfx (49053693257)
Afternoon sun in Gosford, New South Wales in November 2019.
Smoke rises from the Tianjara fire, viewed from HMAS Albatross (2)
Smoke rises from the Tianjara fire, viewed from HMAS Albatross.

On 30 December weather conditions drastically deteriorated across the south-eastern areas of the state, with major fires breaking out and escalating in the Dampier State Forest, Deua River Valley, Badja, Bemboka, Wyndham, Talmalolma and Ellerslie, hampering firefighters already stretched by the Currowan, Palerang and Clyde Mountain fires. As temperatures were forecast to reach 41 °C (106 °F) on the South Coast, Premier Berejiklian declared a seven-day state of emergency on 2 January 2020 with effect from 9 am on the following day, including an unprecedented 14,000-square-kilometre (5,400 sq mi) "tourist leave zone" from Nowra to the edge of Victoria's northern border.

A blaze on the South Coast started off at Currowan and travelled up to the coastline after jumping across the Princes Highway, threatening properties around Termeil. Residents in Bawley Point, Kioloa, Depot Peach, Pebbly Beach, North Durras and Pretty Beach were told to either evacuate to Batemans Bay or Ulladulla or stay to protect their property. One home was lost. As of 2 January  2020 (2020 -01-02), the Currowan fire was burning between Batemans Bay in the south, Nowra in the north, and east of Braidwood in the west. The fire had burnt more than 258,000 hectares (640,000 acres) and was out of control. The Currowan fire had merged with the Tianjara fire in the Morton National Park to the south west of Nowra; and the Charleys Forest fire had grown along the fire's western flank; and on the fire's southern flank, the fire had merged with the Clyde Mountain fire.

By 26 December, the Clyde Mountain fire was burning on the southern side of the Kings Highway, into the Buckenbowra and Runnyford areas. Around 4 am on 31 December, the fire had crossed the Princes Highway near Mogo, and the highway was closed between Batemans Bay and Moruya. Around 7 am on 31 December, the fire impacted the southern side of Batemans Bay, causing the loss of around ten businesses and damage to many others. The fire also crossed the Princes Highway in the vicinity of Round Hill and impacted the residential suburbs of Catalina, as well as beach suburbs from Sunshine Bay to Broulee. Residents and holiday makers were forced to flee to the beaches. On the 23 January this fire escalated back to emergency level as the blaze roared towards the coastal town of Moruya, a town largely unaffected by bushfires in recent weeks.

At nearby Lake Conjola, numerous homes were lost as the embers jumped across the lake, landing in gutters and lighting up houses. On one street there were only four houses still standing. As of 2 January  2020 (2020 -01-02), at least two people died and a woman was missing. Isolated hamlets of Bendalong and Manyana and Cunjurong Point were additionally ablaze, with holiday-makers evacuated on 3 January 2020. As of 6 January  2020 (2020 -01-06), all are still without power.

As of 5 January  2020 (2020 -01-05), in the Bega Valley Shire, the border fire that started in north-eastern Victoria was burning north into New South Wales towards the major town of Eden, and had impacted the settlements of Wonboyn and surrounding areas including Kiah, Lower Towamba and parts of Boydtown. Part of the fire was burning in inaccessible country and continued to head in a north-westerly direction towards Bombala as well as northerly to just south of Nethercote. The fire had burnt more than 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres) and was out of control.

Riverina

On 30 December, the Green Valley fire burning east of Albury near Talmalmo (which had started the day prior) developed into an unprecedented fire event for the Snowy Valleys as a result of extreme local conditions. The smoke plume rose to an estimated 8,000 metres (26,000 ft) and developed a pyro-cumulonimbus cloud, becoming a firestorm. The result was extreme, the wind was described by crews on the ground as in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph), with spot fires starting over 5 km (3.1 mi) ahead of the main fire front.

Firefighters described what they believed to be a tornado generated by the fire storm, which began flattening trees and flipped a small fire vehicle. The tornado then impacted a crew of firefighters working to protect a property, flipping their tanker over and trapping the crew inside, who were then overrun by fire. One firefighter was killed with multiple others injured, with one airlifted to Melbourne and two to Sydney.

Snowy Mountains

The Dunns Road fire was believed to have been started by a lightning strike on 28 December in a private pine plantation near Adelong. In the Snowy Valleys local government area, by 2 January 2020 the Dunns Road fire had burnt south of the Snowy Mountains Highway in the Ellerslie Range near Kunama. Over 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres) was burnt and the fire was out of control. The NSWRFS issued an evacuation order to residents in the Batlow and Wondalga areas. Residents and visitors to the Kosciuszko National Park were evacuated and the national park was closed. 155 inmates from the Mannus Correctional Centre near Tumbarumba were evacuated.

On 3 January 2020, the Dunns Road fire burnt from Batlow into Kosciuszko National Park, burning much of the northern part of the park. The fire caused significant damage, severely damaging the Selwyn Snow Resort, destroying structures in the town of Cabramurra and almost completely destroying the heritage-listed precinct (and birthplace of skiing in Australia) of Kiandra. Kiandra's historic former courthouse was left with only its walls standing after a fire so hot that the glass and aluminium in the windows melted. A number of high country huts, including Wolgal Hut and Pattinsons Hut near Kiandra, were also feared to have been destroyed. By 11 January three fires had merged – the Dunns Road fire, the East Ournie Creek, and the Riverina's Green Valley fire – and had created a 600,000-hectare (1,482,632-acre) "mega-fire", burning south of the Snowy Mountains.

Coulson Aviation (N134CG) Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules departing HMAS Albatross
Coulson Aviation Lockheed EC-130Q Hercules N134CG 'Zeus' which crashed on 23 January 2020, seen here at HMAS Albatross in December 2019.

On 23 January, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules large air tanker crashed near Cooma while waterbombing a blaze, resulting in the death of the three American crew members on board, Captain Ian McBeth, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr.

Victoria

On 21 November, lightning strikes ignited a series of fires in East Gippsland, initially endangering the communities of Buchan, Buchan South and Sunny Point. On the night of 20 December, the Marthavale-Barmouth Spur expanded, greatly endangering the community of Tambo Crossing.

The first day of two day cricket tour match between a Victoria XI and New Zealand in Melbourne, was called off due to extreme heat conditions.

On 30 December, there were three active fires in East Gippsland with a combined area of more than 130,000 hectares (320,000 acres), and another in the north east of the state heading south towards Cudgewa. An evacuation warning was issued for the East Gippsland town of Goongerah, which is surrounded by high-value old growth forests.

On the same day, a fire broke out in the Plenty Gorge Parklands, situated in Melbourne's northern suburbs between Bundoora, Mill Park, South Morang, Greensborough and Plenty.

Fires reached the town of Mallacoota by around 9:00 AEDT on 30 December 2019. As of 11:00 AEDT 31 December, fires had began to approach the vacation town of Lakes Entrance. Despite evacuation of large portions of East Gippsland being recommended, approximately 30,000 holiday makers chose to remain in the region. Approximately 4,000 people, including 3,000 tourists, remained in Mallacoota as the fire began making its closest approach to the town, cutting off roads in the process; Mallacoota had not been issued with an evacuation warning on 29 December. On 3 January, approximately 1,160 people from Mallacoota were evacuated on naval vessels HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore.

On 2 January at 23:00 AEDT Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews declared a state of disaster under the provisions of the Victorian Emergency Management Act for the shires of East Gippsland, Mansfield, Wellington, Wangaratta Rural, Towong, and Alpine, and the alpine resorts of Mount Buller, Mount Hotham, and Mount Stirling. Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp stated that 780,000 hectares (1,900,000 acres) had burnt including 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) near Corryong in the state's north-east and that fifty fires were burning.

On 3 January, Premier Daniel Andrews said two people were confirmed dead from the East Gippsland fires.

Queensland

On 7 September 2019 multiple out of control blazes threatened townships across South Eastern and Northern Queensland, destroying eleven houses in Beechmont, seven houses in Stanthorpe, and one house at Mareeba. On the following day the heritage listed lodge and cabins at the iconic Australian nature-based Binna Burra Lodge were destroyed in the bushfire that consumed residential houses in Beechmont the previous day.

On 9 September a large fire impacted the Peregian Beach area on the Sunshine Coast, severely damaging 10 houses. In December 2019 Perigian Springs and the surrounding areas came under threat by bushfires for the second time in a couple of months. No homes were confirmed lost in this bushfire.

On 9 November, due to deteriorating fire conditions and fires threatening homes across the state, a State of Fire Emergency was Declared across 42 Local Government areas across Southern, Central, Northern and Far Northern Queensland.

On 11 November a fire started in the Ravensbourne area near Toowoomba, which burnt through over 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of bush across several days, destroying 6 houses. At 8am the air quality in Brisbane reached unprecedentedly poor levels (Woolloongabba PM2.5 238.8 μg/m3). Queensland’s chief health officer, Dr Jeanette Young, urged residents to stay indoors and to not physically exert themselves.

On 13 November a water bombing helicopter crashed while fighting the blazes threatening the small community of Pechey. While the Bell 214 helicopter was completely destroyed, the pilot walked away with minor injuries.

On 23 November the state of fire emergency was revoked and extended fire bans were put in place in local government areas that were previously affected under this declaration.

On 6 December a house fire broke out in Bundamba and quickly spread to nearby bushland and was placed under a watch and act alert by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services that afternoon. The following day, after worsening conditions, the fire was upgraded to an emergency warning and began to threaten homes in the local community. The fire destroyed a shipping container filled with fireworks, and residents within the 3-square-kilometre (1.2 sq mi) exclusion zone were ordered to evacuate. One home was destroyed.

South Australia

Smoke from the Cudlee Creek fire
Smoke from the Cudlee Creek Fire in South Australia

On 11 November 2019 ABC News reported that an emergency bushfire warning was issued for people in Port Lincoln in the Lower Eyre Peninsula, with an uncontrolled fire traveling towards the township. The South Australian Country Fire Service ordered ten water bombers to the area to assist 26 ground crews at the scene. SA Power Networks disconnected power to the township.

A large fire broke out on Yorke Peninsula on 20 November 2019 and threatened the towns of Yorketown and Edithburgh. It destroyed at least 11 homes and burnt approximately 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres). The fire was believed to have started from a sparking electrical transformer. A Boeing 737 water bombing aircraft from New South Wales in addition to South Australian Air Tractor AT-802s were used to protect the town of Edithburgh.

Burnt property after a bushfire
Boy looks at the burnt trees on his farm after the Cudlee Creek bushfire in 2019

On 20 December serious fires took hold in the Adelaide Hills, and near Cudlee Creek in the Mount Lofty Ranges. Initial south-easterly winds put the towns of Lobethal and Lenswood in the line of the fire, and by the next morning the winds had changed to north-north-west, threatening other towns. On the first day the fires killed one person, more than 87 houses were destroyed, as well as over 500 outbuildings and 278 cars. Fires are still burning in fire ground and the yearly Christmas celebrations at Lobethal were cancelled.

Also on 20 December, an out-of-control bushfire took hold near Angle Vale, starting from the Northern Expressway and burning through Buchfelde and across the Gawler River. At 11:07am ACDT the fire was burning under catastrophic weather conditions and an emergency warning was issued for Hillier, Munno Para Downs, Kudla, Munno Para West and Angle Vale. One house was destroyed.

2020-01-03 Kangaroo Island Fire Aqua MODIS-LABELS
NASA satellite imagery on 3rd January 2020 showing bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

On 7 January 2020 the SA Government announced plans to cull 5,000-10,000 feral camels in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara to reduce competition for drinking water and food. It was announced that the cull will take place over five days, with the camels to \be shot by snipers from helicopters.

On Kangaroo Island in the Flinders Chase National Park, the Ravine bushfire burnt in excess of 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) and a bushfire emergency warning was issued on 3 January 2020 as the fire advanced towards Vivonne Bay and the town of Parndana was evacuated. On 4 January it was confirmed at least two people died.

As of 6 January  2020 (2020 -01-06) approximately 170,000 hectares (420,000 acres), representing about a third of the island, had been burnt. Fires remained burning out of control, with firefighters working to contain and control fires before potentially hot windy weather scheduled for later in the week. Following fire damage to a water treatment plant, residents were asked to conserve water and some water was carted into island towns. There were concerns for the future of endangered wildlife, such as glossy black cockatoos, kangaroo Island dunnarts, and koalas. Authorities stated that any koalas taken to the mainland for treatment cannot return to the island in case they bring diseases back with them.

Rubbish bin melted by bushfire
Melted green waste bin at Lobethal Bushland Park

Another emergency warning was issued in the evening of 3 January for a fire near Kersbrook. At its largest extent, the warning area overlapped with areas that a few days earlier had been in warnings for the Cudlee Creek fire. Water bombers delivered 21 loads in just over an hour before darkness fell, and 150 firefighters on 25 trucks plus bulk water carriers and earthmoving equipment limited the advance of the fire to 18 hectares. On January 9 the Kersbrook fire flared again.

Tasmania

In late October four bushfires were burning near Scamander, Elderslie and Lachlan. Emergency warnings were issued at Lulworth, Bothwell and Lachlan. A large fire near Swansea also burnt over 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) which issued a watch and act warning. Lighting strikes subsequently started multiple fires in Southwest Tasmania.

Western Australia

Two bushfires were burning in Geraldton on 13 November, damaging homes and small structures.

A fire broke out in Yanchep at 2:11 pm on 11 December, immediately triggering an emergency warning for Yanchep and Two Rocks. Ultimately the fire led to a service station exploding. On 12 December, temperatures in excess of 40 °C (104 °F) exacerbated the fire, and the emergency warning area doubled including parts of Guilderton and Brenton Bay further north. On 13 December, more hot temperatures increased the size of the fire to in excess of 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres), with the fire front over 1.5 kilometres (0.93 mi) in length. As of 13 December  2019 (2019 -12-13), the emergency warning area stretched from Yanchep north to Lancelin over 40 km (25 mi) away. By 16 December, the fire was considered contained and the alert downgraded to watch and act. Approximately 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) were burned, with only two buildings were damaged, both within the first day of the fire starting. In December fires in the region around Norseman blocked access to the Eyre Highway and the Nullarbor and caused the highways of the region to be blocked, so as to prevent any recurrence of the 2007 death of truck drivers on the Great Eastern Highway.

Australian Capital Territory

In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), the national capital Canberra was blanketed by thick bushfire smoke on New Year's Day, from bushfires burning nearby in New South Wales. That day, air quality in the capital was the worst of any city in the world, at around 23 times the threshold to be considered hazardous. Conditions continued the next day, and Australia Post stopped deliveries in the ACT to keep postal workers safe from smoke. The first death directly linked to the poor air quality was also recorded on 2 January.

International effects

Carbon emissions

In mid December 2019, a NASA analysis revealed that since 1 August, the New South Wales and Queensland bushfires had emitted 250 million tonnes (280×10^6 short tons) of carbon dioxide (CO2). As of 2 January 2020, NASA estimated that 306 million tonnes (337×10^6 short tons) of CO2 had been emitted. By comparison, in 2018 Australia's total carbon emissions were equivalent to 535 million tonnes (590×10^6 short tons) of CO2. While the emitted carbon would normally eventually be reabsorbed by forest regrowth, this would take decades, and might not fully happen if prolonged drought damaged the ability of forests to fully regrow.

New Zealand

Smoke cloud over New Zealand, 1 January 2020
The smoke cloud covering the South Island of New Zealand on 1 January 2020; landmasses are outlined in blue.

On New Year's Day 2020, a blanket of smoke from the Australian fires covered the whole South Island, giving the sky an orange-yellow haze. People in Dunedin reported smelling smoke in the air. MetService stated that the smoke would not have any adverse affects on the weather or temperature in the country. The smoke moved over the North Island the following day, but began breaking up and was not as intense as it was over the South Island the previous day; meanwhile, wind from the Pacific Ocean dissipated the smoke over the South Island. The smoke affected glaciers in the country, giving a brown tint to the snow.

2019 Rally Australia

Rally Australia, planned to be the final round of the 2019 World Rally Championship, was a motor racing event scheduled to be held in Coffs Harbour on the NSW Mid North Coast across 14–17 November. A week before the rally was due to begin, the bushfire began to affect the region surrounding Coffs Harbour, with event organisers shortening the event in response to the deteriorating conditions. With the situation worsening, repeated calls from competitors (most of which were European-based) to cancel the event prevailed with the event called off on 12 November.

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