NEWS AND ISSUES

AUGUST 2003

30 fires in State's South/RFS Media Release                                                          30th August 2003

The bushfire season has had a surprisingly early start in southern New South Wales with volunteer firefighters currently battling nearly 30 separate fires in the Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven and Mulwaree Districts.

Two task forces, totalling ten heavy bushfire tankers and some 60 volunteer Rural Fire Service firefighters from Wollongong and Kiama/Shellharbour districts have been placed on standby to go to assist in combating the fires.

In Bega Valley 18 RFS fire tankers are contending with 6 fires including a scrub fire at Tura Beach at which property has come under threat, four separate fires at Kiah and an 80ha grass/scrub fire at Millingandi that began around 11.00am.

In the Eurobodalla District 25 fire tankers are fighting 17 separate bush and scrub fires.

The Shoalhaven District has been hit by seven bush and scrub fires of which two are considered significant at this time. Three bushfires began overnight in the Milton area alone. Approximately 20 bushfire tankers are currently deployed on these fires.

At Towrang, in the Mulwaree District, 8 fire tankers are contending with another scrub fire.

NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer firefighters in seven tankers from Penrith District also extinguished at Castlereagh in western Sydney earlier today. The Blue Mountains District also reported a small bushfire this morning in the Mt Victoria area.
 

Awards Ceremony/webmaster                                                                                  30th August 2003

Congratulations to Darren Roberts "Festa" on receiving his National Medal. The award was presented to him by Assistant Commissioner Mark Crosweller and the Mayor of Sutherland Shire Council Phil Blight.

 

Boat Fire/webmaster                                                                                                   30th August 2003

At 0740hrs this morning a page was received for a boat alight at Warren Avenue, Grays Point. Within 10 minutes of receiving the initial page the CAT1 responded with a crew size of 3. On arrival they found a 6m fibreglass boat fully involved in fire. Hoses were quickly put to work to extinguish the fire as well as protect the many exposures. NSWFB pump 33 arrived a short time later and also assisted to extinguish the blaze. A crew of 4 was back at station manning the CAT2 but was not required as sufficient resources were all ready in attendance. The cause of the fire was due to an electrical fault from work that was carried out on the boat earlier that morning.

 

Strong winds cancel Hazard Reductions/RFS Media Release                          30th August 2003

This evening the Bureau of Meteorology has issued revised forecasts for NSW that include predictions of winds up to 70km/h. These forecasts are causing Rural Fire Service officers to review the extensive plans for hazard reduction burning this weekend, with more than half (including all major burns) now expected to be abandoned due to the potentially dangerous conditions.

Hazard reduction burning cannot be safely carried out in anything other than light wind conditions. High winds cause fire to behave erratically and significantly increase the chance for controlled burns to escape from their established containment lines. These conditions increase the danger to both firefighters and surrounding property.

A full review will be carried out following the early morning weather forecasts that will be received from the Bureau of Meteorology on Saturday morning.
 

 

Windstorm clean up continues/news.com.au                                                  26th August 2003

THE mop-up operation continued in NSW today following a destructive windstorm that claimed one life and felled hundreds of trees and powerlines.

More than 11,000 calls for help were logged by the State Emergency Service (SES) after winds of up to 120kph swept through the state's south and east on Sunday afternoon.

The storm is the worst on record since a freak hailstorm wreaked havoc in Sydney in 1999.

"During the hailstorm we received over 20,000 tasks - for this storm we've received about 11,000 calls for help, so it's a fairly significant storm," SES spokeswoman Laura Goodin said today.

"It is possibly one of the biggest storms we have on our records."

Ms Goodin said volunteers had already responded to two-thirds of the calls logged with them.

"We've had about six to seven hundred volunteers in the field each day which is also true for today. Not only local volunteers but today about 200 volunteers have come in from all over NSW," she said.

"We're being assisted by the NSW Fire Brigade and the Rural Fire Service and we're clearing up trees and branches, tarping roofs and removing hazardous storm debris.

"We're expecting at this point that most of the tasks will be finished by approximately Friday."

Emergency Services Minister Tony Kelly yesterday announced 27 local council areas affected by the winds had been declared natural disaster zones.

He said the declaration enabled residents, local businesses, community groups and councils suffering damage to apply for assistance under the Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements.

©News Limited
 

Aussie firefighters to help US teams/news.com.au                                       26th August 2003


A TEAM of 50 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand will tomorrow leave for the United States to bolster numbers during the northern bushfire season.

The group will include 16 firefighters from NSW, comprising members of the Rural Fire Service, State Forests, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the NSW Fire Brigade.

Australian firefighters have travelled to the US to help local firefighters in three of the past four years.

A selection of the NSW contingent today went through a training course to prepare them for North American conditions.

With bushfires becoming an almost annual occurrence in NSW, firefighter John Fisher said the group would use the knowledge gained in the US to its advantage during the Australian summer.

"As well as making a valuable and necessary contribution to controlling these North American wildfires, the experience our firefighters gain will probably be put directly to use on fires in NSW as soon as they return," Mr Fisher said.

Mr Fisher, from Coffs Harbour, is a team leader in the expedition.

Paul de Mar, chairman of the Australian Forest Fire Officers Group, has been on the trip the past two years and although he's not going this year, he is the group's coordinator.

Mr de Mar said North America was currently on high fire alert.

"The United States and Canada are now on the highest fire preparedness level," Mr de Mar said.

"That means that two or more geographic areas are experiencing incidents (fires) ... firefighting resources are becoming scarce and more unfavourable weather conditions are expected."

The Australians are expected to be there for at least three weeks.

In the past week, bushfires have burned out hundreds of thousands of hectares in western Canada and the US states of Oregon, Montana and Wyoming.

More than 200 homes were destroyed in the western Canadian city of Kelowna and thousands of people were evacuated from the surrounding area.

©News Limited

 

BRIGADES HELP WITH STORM DAMAGE/RFS media release                24th August 2003



About 450 NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers are assisting the State Emergency Service (SES) with storm damage caused by severe storms last night and today.
About 50 brigades are attending storm damage jobs in Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, South Coast and Central West.

``This demonstrates the diverse range of emergency service skills possessed by RFS volunteers,’’ Commissioner Phil Koperberg said.

``RFS volunteers were prepared to conduct about 35 hazard reduction burns this weekend, however, wet weather and high winds caused these to be postponed.

``We weren’t able to do the hazard reduction work, but we have been able to help our colleagues in the SES to assist communities with storm damage.

``RFS volunteers will be working hard along side the SES and NSW Fire Brigades to help the public deal with the havoc caused by recent storms.’’

- Warringah Pittwater: 110 volunteers in 16 tankers assisting with 130 jobs.
- Sutherland: 65 volunteers in 16 tankers are assisting with 20 jobs.
- Hornsby: 16 volunteers are assisting with 6 jobs.
- Kiama Shellharbour: 60 volunteers in 10 tankers from 8 brigades including communications.
- Wollongong: 100 volunteers, 10 brigades.
- Bathurst: 22 volunteers in four tankers.
- Gosford: 45 volunteers in 9 tankers.

Storm damage was also reported in Wollondilly, Penrith, Shoalhaven and Wingecarribee local government areas.

 

Wild winds blast east coast/news.com.au                                                  24th August 2003

STRONG winds have caused havoc across south-eastern Australia, killing one person, damaging buildings and leaving thousands of homes without power.

Coastal areas of NSW were the worst hit as winds gusted up to between 100-120kph, bringing down trees and power lines and tearing roofs off buildings.

A man was killed instantly when a tree fell on a car in the Sydney suburb of St Ives this afternoon, an ambulance spokeswoman said.

He and another man in the car had stopped to check a street directory when the tree crashed on them.

Both were trapped and fallen power lines meant it took an hour to free the injured man.

Other reports of injuries included a man on Sydney's north shore, hit on the head by a falling tree in Mosman. He was taken to hospital in a serious but stable condition.

At Bathurst in central-western NSW, a three-year-old boy suffered a fractured skull when a tree fell on a garage he was using as a cubby house. He was flown to Sydney's Westmead Hospital.

A 10-year-old boy suffered bruising in the incident while another playmate, aged 10, escaped unscathed.

Injuries were also reported from Newcastle and Wollongong.

And tonight, a helicopter rescue crew was searching for two people, believed to be surfers, washed out to sea off Curl Curl, on Sydney's northern beaches.

Today's strong winds also brought down power lines, cutting power to tens of thousands of homes.

EnergyAustralia said 30,000 of its customers in Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter Valley were among those without power.

In Victoria, volunteers were kept busy by strong winds and heavy rain, which caused roof damage and flash flooding.

Tasmania was hit too, with flooding causing problems in the state's south and yachts torn from their moorings.

In the Canberra suburb of Lyneham, strong winds brought down two powerlines and set a house on fire. The elderly woman resident escaped injury but was treated for mild shock, a police spokesman said.

The wild weather across south-eastern Australia was caused by an intense low pressure system over Tasmania, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Senior meteorologist Elly Spark said the winds were expected to turn moderate tonight, but there would be fresh to locally strong winds tomorrow.

In NSW, State Emergency Services (SES) spokesman Peter O'Neill said more than 500 volunteers had been out on the job, supported by the NSW Fire Brigade.

"A lot of trees have come down, also branches have come down ... into yards, across roads, onto cars and brought down power lines," he said.

House damage included reports of roofing iron, gutters and tiles being blown off buildings, he said.

"They've been attending jobs from Shoalhaven in the south through Kiama, Wollongong, Shoal Harbour, right along the coastal area of Sydney," Mr O'Neill said.

"And then up to the northern parts of Sydney, around Ku-ring-gai, but we've also had a lot of reports around the Orange/Bathurst area."

Mr O'Neill said the SES had received hundreds of calls for help, most of them from people worried about the strong winds.

The SES warned people to treat all downed or damaged power lines as extremely dangerous and to stay well away from any trees or cars touching downed lines, as well as from the lines themselves.

A resident of Sydney's North Bondi said a wall of her nine-storey apartment block had been blown off by the winds.

In Victoria, the hardest hit areas were across Melbourne's south-east and the Mornington Peninsula.

Two houses in bayside Williamstown suffered extensive damage from large trees felled by the winds, the SES said.

©News Limited

 

30,000 flee Canada fires/news.com.au                                                                  24th August 2003


A FIRESTORM that forced 30,000 people to flee their community in western Canada has destroyed more than 200 houses, reducing them to smoldering rubble, officials said today.

The Okanagan Mountain forest fire - moving at 100 metres per minute and with 120-metre high flames - has forced the evacuation of nearly one-third of Kelowna's residents.

Officials who surveyed the damaged neighbourhoods on the city's southern outskirts by helicopter said the damage was so extensive it was sometimes difficult to determine from the air what had been a house.

"We got hammered pretty good ... Those homes aren't half gone, they're flat," Kelowna Fire Chief Gerry Zimmerman said, his voice cracking with emotion as he described efforts to protect hundreds of homes in the area.

A Reuters reporter who toured one hard hit neighbourhood today found a street where more than two dozen houses, some of them luxury homes, had been destroyed.

Other streets showed how the fire had razed some houses but left neighbouring buildings untouched. Fire trucks rushed through the area to deal with blazes in the nearby woods.

"Houses were lost, but houses were saved," said Zimmerman, praising the nearly 500 firefighters and soldiers battling the blaze.

Officials ordered 20,000 people to flee with only a few minutes warning yesterday evening as the forest fire began to "crown" - or move rapidly from tree top to tree top. Similar conditions had forced 10,000 to evacuate late on Thursday.

Witnesses saw flames late yesterday leaping from building to building, some of which could be seen exploding from the intense heat.

The fire situation had eased today, but officials were worried because the wind was predicted to intensify later in the day.

The fire about 300km east of Vancouver, began on August 16 with a lightning strike in the mountains.

British Columbia, suffering its worst forest fire season in decades, has been under a state of emergency since the beginning of August.

Some areas in the southern half of the province have seen little or no rain in weeks.

The fire near Kelowna was one of eight large blazes burning out of control near populated areas in south-central British Columbia, and no rain was predicted for the region in "the foreseeable future".

"That's history in itself," Kevin Matuga of the forest service said of the number of wildfires.

Residents have been warned to stay out of forests and off wilderness roads and campsites in the southern half of the province, which is Canada's third largest and roughly the size of France and Germany combined.

©News Limited

 

Amendments to Workplace Relations Act/webmaster

Amendments to the Workplace Relations Act will soon be implemented to protect emergency management volunteers from unfair dismissal if attending emergency incidents. The following extract will be added to section 170CK2 which relates to unfair dismissal. "temporary absence from work because of the carrying out of a voluntary emergency management activity, where the absence is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances."
 

 

Qld bushfire season open/news.com.au                                                                  21st August 2003


WINTER has just over a week to run and despite the chilly mornings the Queensland bushfire season has been declared open.

The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) and the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) have both issued warnings for the public to be alert to fires and to report any suspicious smoke or flames immediately.

DPI forestry manager Leigh Kleinschmidt said forestry plantation areas on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, could be devastated by wildfires, putting in jeopardy forest industries which were major contributors to local communities and the Queensland economy.

Mr Kleinschmidt said that already this month 20 hectares of plantation forest in the area had been lost in a fire that was deliberately lit, causing losses estimated at around $40,000.

``We're asking that all members of the public report any fires they see in forestry plantations as soon as possible. ``The threat is that any fire which erupts could easily get out of hand if not reported immediately,'' Mr Kleinschmidt said.

QFRS senior inspector of operations coordination and volunteer liaison, George McDonald, said there was no set time when the fire season began.

``We sort of drift into it at the beginning of September,'' Mr McDonald said. He said a lot depended on what conditions were like in various areas and the amount of fuel that was available for fires to feed on.

The most dangerous areas were the city-country fringe areas where housing was built amid bushland. ``They are not really in the city and not in the country,'' Mr McDonald said. ``They are very pleasant areas to live in but also very dangerous areas for fires.''

The QFRS would shortly begin an education campaign warning people of precautions they should take during the fire season, Mr McDonald said.

©News Limited

 

Bushfires 'may be worse than 2002'/news.com.au                                             9th August 2003

NSW's next bushfire season could be worse than last year since so much of the state was still crippled by drought, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Phil Koperberg said today.

However, the commissioner said the RFS and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) were confident that their off-season strategic hazard reduction measures would prepare them for the worst.

NSW Premier Bob Carr and Emergency Services Minister Tony Kelly today joined the fire chief at a burnoff at Galston Gorge in Sydney's north.

Mr Carr said such efforts by volunteer firefighters were vital if the state was to be prepared for another hot, dry summer.

"You can't have a scorched earth policy, fire is part of the Australian landscape," Mr Carr told reporters.

"What this is about is strategic intervention to minimise the risk to communities, conducted in a responsible way."

Commissioner Koperberg said two million hectares of land across NSW had been burnt as a result of either wild fire or hazard reduction over the last 12 months.

But a large part of the state was still susceptible to fire.

"Given the fact that 89 per cent of NSW has slipped back into drought and given the fact that meteorologists are talking about the possibility of a re-emerging El Nino effect, then we can't dismiss the possibility of either this drought extending or us slipping back into drought (completely)," Commissioner Koperberg said.

"If that's the case then much of NSW will continue to be exposed to probably marginally worse prospects for the fire season."

He said weather was the obvious factor in any fire season and it was hoped optimum conditions for precautionary burnoffs would continue, given the RFS's chance to reduce fuel loads on 200,000 hectares before summer arrived.

©News Limited

 

WOLLONGONG RURAL FIRE DISTRICT SAYS THANKS TO LOCAL VOLUNTEERS

On Sunday 10 August the Wollongong Rural Fire District will be conducting a Family Day to say thankyou to the volunteers and their families who endured a long summer of firefighting.

Wollongong fire fighters where actively involved in operations throughout the state from the end of August last year through to the middle of January this year and the day has been organised in recognition of their fine efforts and to also to show appreciation to their families who are such an integral part in the volunteer effort.

"The day has been organised so that families of the volunteers can come together in a relaxed atmosphere and enjoy the occasion" said Superintendent Dominic Lane.

"Thanks to the overwhelming support from local businesses we have been able to put together a great program with some real fun events for the nearly 400 people that have been invited to attend"

The 'Bronzewing' steam train will be taking people on a tour through the Port Kembla Steel Works as well as fun and games with heaps of great prizes that have been donated by local businesses.

"As we prepare for a another summer we will at least have the opportunity for everyone in the District to come together and enjoy a great day out."
For more information or interviews contact Supt Dominic Lane (02) 42848596.
 

Portugal contains deadly fires/news.com.au                                                           8th August 2003

FIREFIGHTERS said they had gained control of wildfires which have ravaged Portugal over the past week, killing 15 people and destroying thousands of hectares of land, but remained on high alert for flare-ups as a heatwave continued across much of Europe.

"The improvement in the situation has allowed us to reduce the number of firefighters on the ground, many of them can now rest and recoup their strength," the director of the National Rescue Operation Centre, Gil Martins, told reporters.

More than 2,000 firefighters, aided by 800 soldiers, were working to extinguish fires or were patrolling forests for signs of new blazes, he said.

Martins said firefighters were concentrating their efforts on two new fires which broke out near Serta, a town in central mountains about 180km northeast of Lisbon, and on a stubborn blaze which has burned for days near the central city of Santarem.

Firefighters said cooler overnight temperatures and higher humidity levels had helped them tame most of the fires but the return of strong winds was making it difficult to contain the blazes which are currently burning.

With temperatures in the country's interior, which has been most affected, expected to rise above 40 degrees Celsius and forecasters predicting electrical storms for the weekend, firefighters said the risk of new fires remained high.

The charred body of a woman was found yesterday in Aldeia do Bispo, in the central-eastern Guarda region, bringing to 15 the number of fatalities linked to the heatwave in the past 10 days, local firefighters said.

Aside from the toll in lives, the fires have dealt a heavy blow to Portugal's forestry industry, which accounts for 11 per cent of the nation's exports.

Wood pulp for the paper industry alone represents over 3 per cent of gross domestic product.

Some 162,000 hectares of forest and brush have been lost to flames so far this year, of which 80 per cent was forest, according to preliminary forest service figures released yesterday.

The agriculture ministry said it was too soon to put a price tag on the damage done by the wildfires.

"The different types of trees are worth different amounts. It also depends on how the fire affected an area," ministry spokesman Manuel Mendes said.

Forestry officials say that the timber market will initially be flooded with wood from trees killed by fire, which will be followed by years of little timber.

Lisbon, which has declared the fires a national disaster, is seeking financial aid from the European Union.

European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Anna Diamantopoulou, is scheduled to visit Portugal tonight to inspect the fire damage.

The United States has already agreed to send financial aid to Portugal, government spokesman Nuno Morais Sarmento said today.

"The amount has not been determined yet," he told reporters following a weekly cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile police said they had arrested seven more suspected arsonists as part of their investigation into the wildfires, bringing the total number of detentions in recent weeks to 33.

One of the the people arrested is a former fireman.

Police suspect up to 30 per cent of all of the fires which broke out over the past week may be criminal in origin.

Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso has vowed to hunt down those responsible for starting the fires, but with most blazes now under control, his government faced renewed criticism over its handling of the disaster.

"The government reacted late, badly and with too little," social commentator Miguel Sousa Tavares said in an article published in daily newspaper Diario Economico yesterday.

The government has been taken to task for having only asked local authorities on Saturday for suggestions as to what it could do to minimize the effects of the fires.

Environmentalists meanwhile warned that the huge areas of charred land would be vulnerable to flooding with the arrival of winter rains unless steps are not immediately taken to prevent soil erosion.

Human populations will also be at risk from mudslides in the wake of deforestation, while animal wildlife has already been devastated.

What animals survive in affected areas now have neither food nor refuge, environmentalists warned.

They are also concerned about the impact greenhouse gases from the fires will have on the ozone layer.

©News Limited
 

Fifty new fires flare in Canada/news.com.au                                                          8th August 2003

SOME 50 new fires were sparked overnight in Canada's westernmost province of British Columbia as some 2,000 firefighters tried to make headway containing three major blazes.

Some 590 fires were burning in the southern and central part of the province, 399 of which were sparked by lightening, an official with the provincial Forest Service said.

Forty of the new fires overnight were linked to lightening. Over a 48-hour period, there have been 218 new fires, 210 caused by lightening, the official said in a telephone interview.

Firefighters, with the help of several tanker aircraft and heavy equipment, tried to contain three massive fires near Falkland, McLure-Barriere and just north of Kamloops.

But their task was made all the more difficult with the appearance of the new spot fires from lightening, which stretched resources further.
 

Fire has destroyed some 81,300 hectares this year in Canada's westernmost province, she said, noting that 75,000 burned hectares can be attributed to five ongoing fires in British Columbia.

On Sunday, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell declared a state of emergency asked the federal government for assistance.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien promised disaster relief for the areas damaged by the fire and federal Natural Resources Minister Herb Dhaliwal was expected to assess the fire damage in Kamloops first hand today.

©News Limited

 

Hazard Reduction Burns Around Sydney/RFS Meadia Release                        8th August 2003

The NSW Rural Fire Service advises that a number of hazard reduction burns will be carried out around Sydney today and over this weekend. The hazard reduction burns are used to clear undergrowth and ground fuels in strategic areas of bushland around the urban interface. This work is vital in reducing the intensity of a wildfire should it occur in these areas.

The hazard reduction program is also used to assist in maintaining the native bushland biodiversity. Many native plants depend on fire for their survival. Dormant seeds often require the heat of fire to trigger regrowth. At the same time fire will assist in the removal of exotic plants and weeds.

We ask the public who live near these areas to be aware of that smoke from these fires may at time be quite thick. These burns are well planned and adequate firefighting resources will be on hand. If any member of the public does see a fire of concern, without a fire truck in attendance, they need to call 000 as soon as possible.

We remind residents of Sydney that these hazard reductions are likely to produce very significant amounts of smoke in the Sydney basin. Persons who suffer breathing difficulties should remain indoors or take their normal precautions.

Residents around the hazard reduction burn areas are reminded to take the following precautions: · Keep doors and windows closed to prevent smoke entering homes · Keep outdoor furniture under cover to prevent ember burns · Retract pool covers to prevent ember damage · Remove washing from clothes lines · Ensure pets have a protected area · Sightseers must keep away from hazard reduction burns for their own safety. · In smoky areas vehicles must slow down, keep windows up and turn headlights on.

If residents have any concerns about the effects of a hazard reduction burn that is occurring in their area they should contact their local NSW Rural Fire Service Fire Control Centre.

 

DATE HR PROPOSED

ZONE/DISTRICT

NEAREST TOWN OR SUBURB

STREET OR LOCATION

MAP NAME

GRID REF.

AREA ha.

8/08/2003

Blue Mountains Linden

Dawes Park, Linden

BM UBD 24 H12

300

8/08/2003

Hawkesbury Scheyville Scheyville NP UBD 88 C10

14

8/08/2003

Pittwater Elanora Heights Dewrang Ave UBD 137 Q16

1

8/08/2003

Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai Mt Colah Sewer Works, Pike Rd UBD 113 H3

15

9/08/2003

Hawkesbury East Kurrajong East Kurrajong Road/ Old East Kurrajing Road/ Howes Ck UBD 26E P14

75

9/08/2003

Hawkesbury Ebenezer Charles Kemp Reserve/Tizzana Road UBD 28 E13

27

9/08/2003

Pittwater Igleside Emmaus Road UBD 137 D2

2

9/08/2003

Pittwater Elanora Heights Woorarra Ave UBD 157 P1

2

9/08/2003

Warringah Beacon Hill Guardian Parade UBD 177 E2

4

9/08/2003

Warringah Cottage Point Cottage Pt Road UBD 96 P12

28

9/08/2003

Warringah Belrose Hilversum Cresent UBD 156 G6

2

9/08/2003

Warringah Davidson Kambora Road UBD 155 P16

1

9/08/2003

Warringah Beacon Hill Brooker Ave UBD 177 F3

1

9/08/2003

Warringah Allambie Heights Binalong Reserve UBD 177 F15  

9/08/2003

Baulkham Hills Maroota South Sackville Ferry Rd UBD 29 J3

480

9/08/2003

Gosford Pretty Beach Hawke Head Drive CCUBD 117 K3

30

9/08/2003

Gosford Lisarow Dorit Close Wingello Ck CCUBD 78 E10

150

9/08/2003

Gosford Copacabana Del Monte Dr Winney Bay CCUBD 99 N13

12

9/08/2003

Gosford Patonga Broken Bay Sport & Rec CCUBD 115 L11

25

9/08/2003

Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai Hornsby Heights Galston Gorge, Galston Road UBD 113 D14

40

9/08/2003

Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai Mt Kuring-gai Hamley Rd UBD 194 E5

25

9/08/2003

Sutherland Bangor Yalla Rd UBD 312 B9

10

9/08/2003

Sutherland Bangor Yates Rd UBD 312 C11

8

9/08/2003

Sutherland Bangor Billa Rd UBD 311 P9

17

9/08/2003

Wollongong Bellambi Ck F6, Mt Ousley Rd WUBD 21 G7

30

9/08/2003

Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai Warhoonga Grosvenor St UBD 134 B13

8

10/08/2003

Hawkesbury East Kurrajong West Portland Rd "Merit Farm" UBD 27 K6

8

10/08/2003

Warringah Collaroy Plateau Snake Gully Road UBD 157 P8

5

10/08/2003

Warringah Belrose Haigh Ave UBD 155 Q13

36

10/08/2003

Baulkham Hills Glenorie Miller Road & Cattai Ridge Road

 

 

AUGUST DROUGHT FIGURES - NSW SET FOR POSSIBLE SEVERE BUSHFIRE SEASON

With more of the State slipping back into drought, Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Mr Phil Koperberg warned that NSW was facing the possibility of another severe bushfire season.

Commissioner Koperberg was commenting on the release of official drought figures at State Parliament this morning by NSW Agriculture Minister, Mr Ian Macdonald.

Despite recent rainfalls in some parts of NSW, nearly 90 percent of the State remains in drought.

The August data shows 89.1 per cent of the State is experiencing drought conditions, while 10.3 percent is considered marginal.

In July, 87.8 percent of the state was experiencing drought conditions, while 12 percent was considered marginal and 0.2 percent satisfactory.

The drought has been compounded by severe frosts, which has stunted pasture growth and reduced soil moisture levels in general.

Commissioner Koperberg said:

"As we have witnessed over the past two seasons, drought exacerbates fire. Low levels of ground moisture, high temperatures and low humidity have created fire conditions of great severity.

"The weather pattern across the world - high temperatures and resulting high intensity fires - has led to catastrophic fire seasons across Europe and North and South America.

"Rainforests and marshes are burning. Unfortunately a bad season in the Northern Hemisphere is often a harbinger of a bad season for Australia.

"Despite some rain in April, May and June - which delayed much of the planned proscribed burning program, but it did not fill dams or impact on soil moisture levels - much of the State is likely to be very dry this Summer.

"We're seizing the opportunity to push on with our proscribed burning program, targeting priority areas near homes and farming assets. More than 20 burns were carried out in the Sydney basin last week. More than 100 others are ready to get underway.

"There is no room for complacency. We are preparing for a potentially serious fire season should the drought continue into summer.''
 

Dial Up Scanner/webmaster

The fire season is fast approaching us and it would nice to have the means of staying up to date on local fire information. This year a trial will begin of a new dial-up scanner. This will be available for our members to listen to live communications through your own telephone. Sutherland's GRN will be available via phone 24hrs a day. Other active channels may be also be available during locally quite periods. Expect this new and exciting service to begin on October 1st. A phone number will be provided to members privately as this is not a public service

 

Rainfall statistics for NSW/BOM                                                                               

July 2003 Rainfall: Above average rain has fallen in parts of the Riverina and Upper and Lower Western Districts in July. Less than average falls have occurred in parts of the Northern Tablelands and Northern Rivers Districts and in isolated pockets over the ranges and the far southwest tip of the State. Overall the rain that has fallen in July 2003 only marginally improves the last 12 month and 9 month rainfall deficit situation but has been sufficient to relieve shorter term effects.

May to July 2003 Rainfall: Above average falls over the last three months have occurred along parts of the coastal districts in the Illawarra, Metropolitan and the Mid North Coast. There are also isolated areas in the southern and western districts with above average falls for May to July.  There remain large areas where rainfall amounts are still in the lowest 30% of long term records for this period.

Drought Situation: July rainfall was adequate to remove many of the short-term rainfall deficiencies that had developed since March 2003. This was particularly the case in the Southwest Slopes in NSW together with the Central Western Slopes and Riverina. However, for the past 12 month period, there are still large areas of eastern Australia that are deficient in rainfall. Longer-term serious to severe rainfall deficiencies continued over some large areas of southeastern NSW, thereby emphasizing the severity of the dry conditions last year

 


Portugal fire toll reaches 14/news.com.au                                                                  August 7, 2003

PORTUGUESE firefighters gained the upper hand overnight over the deadly forest fires which have swept the country over the past week, but remained on high alert as temperatures rose and the death toll from the blazes climbed to 14.

"The situation is much calmer than it has been in recent days," said Gil Martins, director of the National Rescue Operation Centre.

"We are managing to extinguish the fires that exist. What is important at this point is that new fires do not spring up."

Martins said a fire near Serta, a town in the central mountains about 180 kilometers northeast of Lisbon, was the only large blaze currently burning out of control in the country.

Firefighters said cooler overnight temperatures in recent days, along with higher humidity levels, had helped them in their battle against the wildfires. But with daytime temperatures expected to remain as high as 42 degrees Celsius in some regions today.

Martins said firefighters remained on the alert for flare-ups.

More than 2,300 firefighters aided by 700 soldiers have been drafted in to battle the recent fires, described as the worst in the nation's history, equipped with more than 500 vehicles and water-dropping aircraft, including four planes sent by Morocco.

Agriculture Minister Armando Sevinate Pinto said yesterday that an estimated 100,000 hectares of brush and woodland had been destroyed, adding that it would be more than a month before the full extent of the damage was known.

The provisional total includes the destruction of 20,000 hectares of cork trees.

Portugal is the world's biggest producer of cork, with exports worth 880 million euros (one billion dollars) annually.

Prime Minister Jose Manuel Durao Barroso's government on Tuesday appealed to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide up to six Canadair water-dropping aircraft, along with three helicopters and crews, to help fight the fires.

But a NATO official in Brussels said yesterday it would be difficult for the military alliance to meet Lisbon's request.

"There are few countries which possess such capabilities and those which do are using them - that's going to complicate the task," Yves Brodeur said.

Italy yesterday recalled two Canadair planes, which have been helping Portuguese firefighters since Saturday, because it said they were needed at home to battle fires which recently broke out in Tuscany.

Germany meanwhile sent Portugal three Puma helicopters which had been helping to fight wildfires in southern France.

Portugal declared the fires a national disaster on Monday, a move which unlocks millions of euros in aid to those who have lost their homes or livelihoods to the fast-moving flames.

Durao Barroso said Portugal would also seek financial aid from the European Union.

A former New York firefighter who now works in Portugal told private television SIC the wildfires were more frightening than the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

"We could run and we could escape (in New York)," Pedro Germano told private television station SIC.

"Here we were completely surrounded."

A husband and wife, both in their 40s, became the latest victims of the wildfires.

Firefighters told the Lusa news agency they found the couple in the middle of brush near the city of Braganca, located some 500 kilometres northeast of Lisbon.

Police said they had detained 26 suspected arsonists, including a former fireman, as part of their investigation into the wildfires.

The interior ministry has withdrawn all licences for fireworks displays, which are popular during summer religious festivals, until the fires are completely brought under control.

About one-third of Portugal is covered by forest and each year thousands of trees are lost to flames during the hot, dry summer.
 

©News Limited

Canadians battle new forest fires/news.com.au                                                     7th August 2003

THOUSANDS of firefighters yesterday wrestled with major forest fires in western Canada, as new blazes cropped up in both Alberta and British Columbia, with lightening storms looming.

"It's going to be a very busy day for us," said Denis Gaudry of British Columbia's Forest Service at a nationally televised press conference in Kamloops, in the westernmost province.

With a 40 per cent chance of thunderstorms today, more lightening strikes could ignite dry timber and shrubs, he said.

Overnight, 46 new fires cropped up from lightening and strong winds, 32 of them in the Kamloops area alone.

Thirty of these stemmed from lightening, Gaudry said.

There are 366 fires - most caused by lightening - across the province, said Kelli Svendsen, an information officer with the province's regional emergency coordination center, based in Kamloops.

Some 2,000 firefighters in British Columbia were trying to contain three massive fires near Falkland, McLure-Barriere and just north of Kamloops, 215km northeast of Vancouver, she said.

"These larger ones are the major focus at the moment" but potentially more lightening strikes and strong winds (expected at more than 20km per hour) could divert firefighters' attention to small fires, Svendsen added.

Most of the evacuation orders on the area's 10,000 residents remain, she said. Officials suggested it could take weeks before they are allowed to return to their homes.

Another 10,000 hectares, on top of the 38,000 hectares of forest already destroyed, have succumbed to the flames, she added.

On Sunday, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell declared in the province a state of emergency asked the federal government for assistance.

In the neighboring province of Alberta, on the other side of the Rocky Mountains, 31 fires were ablaze, two more than on Tuesday, said Patrick Loewen, a wildfire information officer for Alberta.

Seven of these are out of control, he said in a phone interview from Edmonton, adding that nearly 1,600 firefighters were fighting the blazes including some soldiers.

The fires were being tamed in part by some precipitation, Loewen added.

©News Limited
 

French brushfire contained/news.com.au                                                                7th August 2003

MORE than 400 firefighters managed to control a large brush fire that flared up yesterday in southern France, emergency workers said, as blazes continued to flare up throughout the region.

Two firemen were slightly injured in the effort to douse the flames, which have consumed 1,650 hectares near the Tarn river gorge since the fire first broke out on Sunday.

Firefighters said that populated areas were not threatened, but that they were having difficulty putting out the blaze on the steep slopes.

A 33-year-old unemployed man who admitted he had accidentally started the fire by dropping a cigarette while camping in the region has been granted conditional release pending further investigation.

Five people were killed and thousands evacuated in devastating fires that swept through parts of southern France and the Mediterranean island of Corsica last week, amid the region's worst drought in a quarter of a century.

Another fire broke out yesterday to the northeast of the Riviera city of Nice, scorching 250 hectares of pinewood and brush, but firefighters said that blaze was also under control.

The French government has vowed to severely punish anyone caught starting forest fires, and yesterday the interior ministry said it had already nabbed 14 suspected arsonists in connection with this summer's blazes.

Firefighters were also battling fast-moving wildfires in Spain and Portugal that have claimed at least 27 lives in the two countries in the past week.

©News Limited

Wildfires spread in Italy/news.com.au                                                                     7th August 2003

DOZENS of people were evacuated from homes and holiday apartments in Italy as advancing wildfires ravaged areas of Campania, Liguria and Tuscany, Italian officials said overnight.

Most of the fires were burning around the northern port city of Genoa, while in Tuscany police arrested a 16-year-old boy suspected of lighting several fires outside the city of Lucca. Police said he had admitted setting the blazes in Versilia after an argument with his parents.

Those fires forced the evacuation of 20 people from their homes on a vast forested hillside. A fireman was treated for smoke inhalation.

Several dozen holidaymakers were evacuated early yesterday from two apartment blocks near a raging wildfire in the San Ilario di Campo area of Elba, off the Tuscan coast, the civil protection service said.

Italy's beleaguered civil protection unit said all its 14 aircraft and six helicopters were being deployed to fight nine major fires across Italy, where a prolonged heatwave has turned many forested areas into a fire risk.

The latest blazes have consumed an area of 800 hectares. Some 20,000 hectares of forested land falls victim to fires across Italy annually.

The Italian Green party pointed out that while the human costs from the fires are relatively low, the animal, bird and insect population pays a huge toll.

Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said eight million small mammals, six million birds and an untold number of insects and reptiles would die this year in the forest fires.

One hectare of pine forest contains five million isects, 400 small mammals and 300 birds, he said.

©News Limited

 

Man dies in house fire/news.com.au                                                                    6th August 2003

A MAN died in a house fire on the NSW south coast overnight, police said today.

Emergency services were called to a house fire in Coolibah Crescent at Lake Conjola at about 12.25am (AEST).

Firefighters brought the blaze under control within an hour. The body of a man, believed to be in his 30s, was found in the front room of the house, police said.

NSW Police Forensic Services Group officers and fire investigators attended the scene.

Inquiries about the man's identity and the cause of the fire were underway.
 

A report was being prepared for the coroner.

©News Limited
 

Tuckey calls for bushfire compo/news.com.au                                                      5th August 2003

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope should have stood up for the people of Canberra by demanding compensation from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service for January's fires, federal Territories Minister Wilson Tuckey said today.

Mr Tuckey said an independent inquiry by former commonwealth ombudsman Ron McLeod into the January 18 fires, which killed four people and destroyed more than 500 homes in the national capital, vindicated his view that more controlled burning should be done in national parks.

The report found the fires might have been prevented from reaching Canberra if they had been fought aggressively in the first 24 hours after they started and recommended more controlled burning be carried out to prevent bushfires.

Mr Tuckey congratulated Mr Stanhope for saying yesterday that NSW fire authorities should share some of the responsibility for letting a NSW fire enter the ACT.

But he said Mr Stanhope should have demanded compensation from the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service for the loss of life and property in the fires.

"I have always supported the view that Stanhope should have sought compensation from the NSW parks and wildlife service, from day one," Mr Tuckey told AAP.

"I now applaud the way he has put Canberra people ahead of his common political allegiance with Bob Carr."

Mr Tuckey said many Canberrans had suffered in the fires.

"These people have suffered dreadfully and well beyond the financial position, because there was no duty of care conducted in NSW National Parks," Mr Tuckey said.

He said the states should learn the lessons from the January fires and undertake more fuel reduction burns.

"I note the priority, his (Mr Mcleod's) number one recommendation is for hazard reduction," Mr Tuckey said.

©News Limited
 

McLeod Report into ACT Bushfires/RFS Media Release                             5th August 2003

The NSW Rural Fire Commissioner, Phil Koperberg, today welcomed the McLeod Report into the January 2003 Bushfires in the ACT while acknowledging that the terms of reference for the inquiry did not allow it to make assessments of NSW agencies.

“Mr McLeod has not made an assessment of the NSW agencies operational activities during the fires,” the Commissioner said.

“However his report contains many valuable lessons for the fire services across Australia.

“I look forward to reading the detail of the report in coming days,” he said.

The McLeod Report investigates the ACT authorities’ management of the fires under their control (Bendora, Stockyard Spur, Gingera), which began burning on January 8.

The NSW RFS was pleased to be able to provide the investigators with a record and analysis of the bushfires which began burning around Yarrowlumla Shire in NSW (McIntyres Hut – 4 separate fires, Broken Cart, Mt Vale, Mt Morgan, Yanununbeyan, Wild Cattle Creek and Childowla) on the same afternoon.

“It is clear from the report that the ACT authorities and we in NSW made different strategic decisions on the afternoon of January 8,” Mr Koperberg said.

“The report notes that one of the fires at McIntyres Hut had already reached some 200 hectares in size at around 5pm on the 8th of January.

“The report further notes that the weather was deteriorating and that this combined with steep terrain and long travel distances made a direct attack impractical at that time.

“The report also notes that on January 18 the fires burning in the ACT and those in NSW merged as the prevailing winds pushed them towards the urban areas of Canberra.

“While the report finds that NSW provided valuable assistance to its ACT counterparts we are now working on a Memorandum of Understanding.

“The MOU will formalise an already strong working relationship between NSW and ACT emergency services.”

The Commissioner noted that many of the changes recommended for the ACT in the McLeod Report had been made in NSW during the past decade.

 

 

Firefighter dies after helping extinguish house fire/ABC Illawarra                  5th August 2003

A coroner's report is to be prepared into the death of a well-known New South Wales south coast firefighter who collapsed and later died after helping put out a house fire at Warrawong last night.

Kevin Metcalf was one of a number of fire officers who had extinguished a fire in the dining room of a house in Jackson Avenue, when he collapsed.

Fire and ambulance officers managed to revive Mr Metcalf but he died a short time later in Wollongong Hospital of a suspected heart attack.

Fire Service spokesman Ian Krimmer says Mr Metcalf was a long-serving member of the fire brigade and will be sadly missed.

"He had, in fact, served for some 50 years as a firefighter and this will hit very hard to every firefighter right throughout the state, particularly in the Illawarra region.

"A death in our brigade is very rare and it's certainly something that will hit home to all fire crews, a full investigation into the cause of his death and also a cause for the fire will continue throughout this morning," he said.

Mr Metcalf was the foundation member and chairman of the Port Kembla Pollution Committee.

© Australian Broadcasting Authority

 

Firestorm 'could have been stopped'/news.com.au                                              4th August 2003

FIRES that ripped through Canberra on January 18 could have been contained within the first 24 hours if they had been fought correctly, an inquiry found today.

The report of the independent inquiry headed by former Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron McLeod into the fires that killed four people in the national capital and destroyed 506 homes was released today. "The inquiry is of the view that the fires, started by lightning strikes, might have been contained had they been attacked more aggressively in the 24 or so hours after they broke," the report says.

Mr McLeod said the event was unique in the experience of the residents of Canberra and its surrounds and probably of all the fire-fighters.

He said fires of this kind had never before caused such damage to the region and no house had been lost to bushfire in suburban Canberra since 1952.

"The inquiry's view is that one of the lessons of the fires is the realisation that very serious and potentially destructive fires that may threaten the city could happen again in the future," he said.

"The Canberra community must not forget this.

"The fires cannot be simply explained away as an unfortunate, unlucky or one-off event."

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope will make his response to the report at 1pm (AEDT).

Mr McLeod said a plausible case could be argued that the long drought, build-up of fuel levels, presence of commercial plantations and the dangerous weather conditions all combined to make it nearly impossible to contain or extinguish fires before they reached Canberra, regardless of the efforts of firefighters. "The inquiry considers, however, that there was a chance to extinguish the fires if the opportunity to put them out in the first 36 to 48 hours after the lightning strikes had been grasped more vigorously," he said.

"The ACT fire authorities are criticised for not coming to this realisation quickly enough and for failing to immediately attack the fires with all the aggression they could muster.

"Had this occurred – while the inquiry is not in a position to conclude unequivocally that it would have made a difference in the absence of the fullest response that was potentially available – the doubt remains that the fires that originated in the ACT could have been stopped.

"There would be little ground for criticism if, despite no effort being spared during those critical first days, the fires had in fact proved unstoppable. Unfortunately, in the inquiry's judgment, this was not the case."
 

©News Limited
 

Bushfire report due today/news.com.au                                                                   4th August 2003

VOLUNTEER firefighters have called for local experts to be given complete control of bushfires ahead of the release today of a report into the January firestorm which devastated Canberra.

They also called for the McLeod Inquiry to recommend the sacking of Emergency Services Bureau executive director Mike Castle and chief fire control officer Peter Lucas-Smith.

The January 18 fires killed four people and destroyed 506 homes.

The inquiry, headed by former Commonwealth Ombudsman Ron McLeod, was tasked to examine the response to fires by the ACT Emergency Services Bureau, including the fire brigade and ambulance service, ACT Policing, Environment ACT and ACT Forests.

ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has already flagged that the report will identify faults within departments regarding their response to the fires.

Captain of the southern ACT volunteer bushfire brigade Val Jeffery warned Canberra was just as likely to lose another 500 homes this summer if fires were sparked because government bureaucracy had failed to take adequate action over winter.

He and former deputy chairman of the ACT Bush Fire Council Michael Lonergan said they believed the McLeod Inquiry would recommend further bureaucracy be implemented within bushfire management.

Such a move, they said, would mean firefighters would be in a worse situation than they were in January.

Mr Lonergan said bushfire control should be left to experts in the field who knew the local area.

©News Limited

 

Forest fires rage out of control/news.com.au                                               4th August 2003

FOREST fires raging out of control in western Canada's British Colombia have already ravaged 54,000ha and destroyed dozens of homes, prompting a government-declared state of emergency.

Announced for the region of Kamloops onFriday, the state of emergency was extended late Saturday to the whole of British Columbia, and also to Alberta.

"The situation is still critical now," British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell said on television network CBC Newsworld.

"We have over 38,000ha of land that's on fire at this point. We've got almost 2000 firefighters at work."

With temperatures exceeding 30C and high winds forecast for the coming few days, there was little room for hope of an improvement of conditions for the fires to be put out.

"One of the challenges we all face as we deal with a situation that's unfolding today is that this is unprecedented," Campbell also said.

"This is the driest our forests have ever been since we started recording those sorts of statistics in British Columbia. The fires that we're dealing with have been incredibly erratic, very volatile," the Premier said.

Nearly 80 troops from the Canadian army were called in to back up 2000 fire fighters seeking to quell about 353 blazes throughout the province.

Authorities said that half the fires so far had been caused by lightning, while others were the work either of arsonists or campers who had accidentally provoked the blazes.

As flames moved forward, more than 10,000 residents for most of the villages around Kamloops, southeastern British Columbia, were evacuated, Joel Shaefer of the region's emergency operations' center said Sunday.

Shaefer said that 75 houses and businesses in the town of Barriere had caught fire.

Another major blaze ravaged the region of Lake Chilko, a sparsely populated area popular with nature lovers, about 300km north of Vancouver.

The blaze ate into 15,000ha yesterday, according to authorities, as high winds blew the thick smoke up to a hundred kilometres eastwards.

On the other side of the Rocky Mountains, the province of Alberta was also on high alert for fires, with 11 so far burning out of control.

The main fire raging in the southwest of the province has destroyed in the past 10 days more than 16,000ha in the Crownsnest Pass, whose local residents have been evacuated.

About 850 firefighters, with back up from four water tanker aircraft used to quell the flames, worked at full capacity to try and stop the fire spreading further.

©News Limited

 

Nine dead in forest fires: president/news.com.au                                         4th August 2003

NINE people had died in forest fires that raged through Portugal in the past week and destroyed thousands of hectares of forests and dozens of homes, Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio said.

Sampaio said he was "deeply saddened" by the tragedy and offered his condolences to the families of the nine victims, during a visit to the offices of national civil protection service.

He said the Government would soon announce measures to help the people hit by the fires, which he warned could continue for some time.

The national emergency centre said the fire by late yesterday had hit 15 of the country's 18 regions, and almost 3000 firefighters, 380 troops, 781 fire trucks, 23 helicopters and 12 water-carrying planes had been deployed to fight the flames.

The situation continued to deteriorate yesterday near several villages in the regions of Castelo Branco and Portalegre, north and east of Lisbon.

Firemen found three charred bodies of people in their cars in central Portugal on Saturday, while a man in his 50s was also found dead after attempting to escape the fires in his tractor.

Faced with one of the country's worst disasters in two decades, Portugal has appealed for help from fellow members of the European Union to battle the devastating forest fires, which began on July 27 and have hit hard areas north and east of the capital Lisbon amid soaring temperatures.

Much of Europe has been suffering from low rainfall and high temperatures in recent weeks and flames have torn through parched forests and scrubland, setting off huge fires in neighbouring Spain and France.

About one-third of Portugal is covered by forest and each year thousands of trees are lost to flames during the hot, dry summer.

There have been about 1700 forest fires in the country so far this year, destroying more than 26,000ha of brush and trees, according to forest service figures released on Friday.

©News Limited

 

7500 Canadians flee Bushfires/news.com.au                                                     2nd August 2003

BUSHFIRES on Canada's west coast have driven nearly 7500 people from their homes and burned dozens of houses in the British Colombia town of Barriere, emergency officials said.

At least 60 homes and a sawmill were destroyed in Canadian the town yesterday, about 50 km north of Kamloops, said Bob Buglsag of the provincial emergency program.

The British Columbia government declared a state of emergency in the affected area.

Residents were shepherded to Kamloops, along with people from neighbouring McLure and its surrounding area, where the estimated 40 square kilometre fire broke out on Wednesday.

About 7500 people had been forced from their homes by tonight, said Cathy Piazza, chief information officer for the provincial emergency program.

Residents fled as a new fire jumped a highway and inched perilously close to the Kamloops suburb of Rayleigh. Several hundred residents had to be ferried across the North Thompson River by Department of Fisheries and Oceans boats, said Corporal Mike Stewart of Kamloops Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Premier Gordon Campbell said the state of emergency was aimed at helping crews fighting fires in McLure and surrounding areas, and to ensure a co-ordinated response to evacuating residents threatened by the expanding wildfires.

"This is the worst situation we've had and the driest circumstances that we've measured in the last 50 years," said Campbell in an interview.

"In all likelihood British Columbians have never lived through a drier forest situation than we are living through this summer."

The fire apparently was started on Wednesday by a discarded cigarette, fire information officer Kevin Matuga said. Fanned by high winds, it exploded on Thursday night.

The blaze was too hot for firefighters to approach.

©News Limited

 

Forest fires rage in Canada/news.com.au                                                      August 1, 2003

HUNDREDS of fire fighters were battling today to control two blazes raging in the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains in the western province of Alberta.

Provincial authorities warned 2,700 residents in the Crow's Nest Pass region near the fires to prepare to evacuate their homes lest the blazes, totalling 1,200 square kilometers, spread.

They said 650 fire fighters were in the trenches and another 100 on standby.

About 20 smaller fires were reported after days of exceedingly hot, dry weather.

A statement from the provincial government said the fires had not started in a campground, although "the cause remains under investigation".

©News Limited