January 2003 - Canberra Fires

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Photos Taken from our Back Verandah, Saturday Afternoon - 18 Jan 2003

3.33pm East 3.33pm South 3.43pm North 5.22pm South 5.29pm South
5.50pm North 5.52pm East 5.52pm South 6.08pm South 6.08pm East
6.09pm North 7.21pm South

Terry and Maureen's Old House - 319 Hindmarsh - 22 Jan

311 Hindmarsh 319 Hindmarsh 321 Hindmarsh 319 and 321 323

Lyons Davenport Street - 22 Jan

End Davenport End Davenport Lyons Powerlines Lyons Substation 64 Dav - Russell

Canberra Times - 21 Jan
Showing Terry and Lyn's House
close to Destroyed Houses in Chapman
Click for Full Size (766k)

Canberra Times - 23 Jan
Satellite Image of Burned Areas
Click for Full Size (687k)


Following is an article from aus.aviation summarising some helicopter crew experiences on that Saturday. I don't know the author(s) but I suspect this report will become famous:

Black Sat Fires in Canberra (Air Ops)

For those that are interested just got back from spending the past
four days working in one of the Air Attack ships on the massive
bushfires burning in the Australian Capital Territory. Below is a list
of the aircraft we had at the Helibase.

  2 x S-64E Aircranes (Erickson)
  1 x K-Max (Superior Helicopters)
  1 x 204 (Heliquip)
  1 x 205 (Helipro NZ)
  1 x BK-117 (Lifeflight Melbourne)
  1 x 500E (Marine Helicopters)
  2 x 206L (Helicorp & G & A Helicopters)
  1 x EC-120 (Canberra Helicopters)   3 x 206B (Southwest Helicopters,
  3 x AS350s (Heli Aust, Rotor Lift)
  1 x Seahawk (Royal Australian Navy)
  1 x AS350 (Royal Australian Navy)

  Basically we were airborne every day from the Friday I got there till
yesterday. The first day we were based at Eurialla Helibase but at 10.0am
on the Sat morning the McKinley fire we were working on got out of control
and was headed back towards downtown Canberra. The helibase was evacuated
and all equipment headed for the Nicholl oval which became the Helibase,
at least so far anyway.

  Sat was a day from ####. The fire was burning approx 20km away in the
morning and with the spotting and ferocity of it, caused by 38 deg Celcius
temps and 50 MPH winds it got up a head of steam. With aircraft stretched
thin we did what we could but by 2pm things were getting real bad. We got a
call from one of the other air attacks saying they needed the Crane around
at Weston Creek as fire was already in the houses (Weston is a suburb of
Canberra City). As we closed in the skies became black as night, the only
way we could see anything was the brightness created by the burning hills
and houses around us. It was like going through a tunnel of fire.
Words cant really explain what it was like.

  As we took the crane in to find some targets it got even darker. We were
about 1/4 mile in front of Mike and Jim in the Crane and all they could
see was our flashing strobe on the tail of the Longranger. Out in the smoke
and fire were two other aircraft and it was a case of all eyes out the windows
keeping an eye out. At 2.30pm it was like it was midnight, pitch black with
an erie red glow.

  Fast forwarding and when we finally handed the crane over to Ashley and
jim in the other air attack machines we took the Kmax and headed for Duffy
(this was the worst affected suburb losing over 200 houses). We had Mike
in tow, sitting between our 5 and 6o'clock, only a hundred feet or so above
the houses and at about 50 knots because viz sucked big time. We ended
up going between tall building in downtown Woden as we inched our way to
Duffy.  Once there it was like a war movie. One out of every ten houses were
still there. It was impossible to work out where to start. Jayson and I
started looking for targets for the Kmax as well as water sources but Mike
had already decided to pull water out of the swimming pools. Now the Kmax
is one #### of a machine, with a 100ft long line he was pulling water out
of a pool behind a house that was already well alight and dropping it on
the neighbours place to try and save that. It was an amazing and sobering
sight. One old guy waved like mad at us to help as his house was just
starting to burn so we got Mike over pointed out what was needed and
after about ten loads from the neighbours swimming pool, the house was
saved. Needless to say he was very greatful. 

  This was a common scene that afternoon and evening. Again fast
forwarding. We had to bug out about 7.45pm and it was a very sombre mood
with all the crews that night. However the stories were amazing. Our
original helibase at Eurialla was over run by the fire and didnt exist
anymore, nor did the town, all forty houses were gone also.

  During one fire front we worked on Rick dropped me off to try and pull
down a fence so that two horses could get out as they were cornered by
fire. Being stuck in the middle of a fireground and relying on the Kmax
and Tony in the AS350 to keep the flames back with bucket loads of water,
while trying to rip the fences down, was a very character building moment
and one I wont forget. These pilots do a #### of a job and for once I am glad
that I got to experience their handiwork first hand. And yes the horses did

  Hope that gives you all an idea of whats going on with the Canberra
Fires and this is only one of the many fires burning in Australia. Am home
Until Friday and then back over to Canberra for the following four days.

via Ian S...........


And finally a 253k satellite image which I think was taken on Friday. You can see the fires were tens of kilometres from Canberra. Click the thumbnail below for full size:


Mike Dinn - Canberra - 23 Jan 2003 - last upcated 25 Jan 2003