Thursday, January 2, 2020

Yet More Bushfire Hell

Our current bushfire crisis is far from over with it flaring up bigger than ever on the NSW South Coast and Eastern Victoria on New Year's eve and it's still raging. The fire fronts are so big that our fires services are so stretched that some fires are unattended, they just simply can't be everywhere.  These fires are bigger in size than the Australian Capital Territory(ACT) with over 4.5m hectares burnt out in NSW alone. Here is a map of the current fires in NSW. There are predictions the worst is yet to come this saturday with temperatures in the mid 40's.

The eastern Victorian town of Mallacoota had 4000 residents and holidayers evacuated to the beachfront as the bushfire swept through the town destroying hundreds of houses. Daytime was turned to night as residents stood on the beach in blackness at 9.20am. Truly horrifying and frightening stuff. These fires are now so big that the smoke is reaching across the Tasman sea and engulfing New Zealand's South Island as seen here on the BOM sat view.

Screen grab of satellite view - smoke trails bottom right out across NZ

It was similar scenes in the NSW town of Batemans Bay with residents and holidayers evacuated to the beaches. There are photos on the Internet of the main street at midday looking like night time. Very scary. Our hearts go out to them and everyone that has been lost in the fires. So far sadly 9 people have lost their lives in the new years fire, but it could have been so much worse. Photo below is of the fire at 11am on new years eve with batemans bay in the centre of pic.

One of the major problems with these fires is that when the smoke rises up it forms cumulonimbus flammagenitus which cause dry lightning strikes making the fires even bigger. The above picture shows the cumulonimbus flammagenitus rising in front of the fire front. The RFS has confirmed 382 homes have been destroyed and they're expecting to find more.

Cobargo is small town in southern NSW which was also devastated by the fires with the main street being hit. We regularly travel through this pretty little town on our annual snowys ride.

Speaking with Geoff on new years eve we  decided we would take a new years day ride out across the Bells Line of road in the Blue Mountains and have a look around. This was where the bushfire's ripped through here about one week ago. What we found was more devastation.

The first sign of any fires was in Bilpin about 30km from Windsor were the Tutti Frutti shop has been burnt down. For the next 52km into Lithgow the entire Blue mountains has been burnt out. There are small patches here and there not burnt.

Geoff spotted smoke and thought he'd better put it out before any more fires break out.

The W30 sign is for Windsor one of Sydney's outer suburbs so the fires are within 30kms of Australia's largest city, that's how close they have come. We actually had a watch and act fire alert sms come through on our mobile phones on new years eve for an out of control grass fire only 10 minutes from our house. That's getting a bit close.

We stopped in across from Bilpin Fruit bowl for a coffee and homemade apple pie. The apple pie was delicious and I was desperately needing a coffee pick me up. A RFS brigade stopped in for some lunch at the table next to us. Members of the public were stopping to talk with them and thank them for their efforts. This was great to see. Well done lads and ladies.

Coming up Mt Tomah you could see through the tree lines on the side of the road that normally blocks your view. But now with the fire defoliating the roadside there are clear views out over the surrounding hills. They have been fire devastated as far as the eye can see.

It's a sad sight indeed to see so much destruction of a once beautiful area. Our only hope is that we get some rain soon so that it will help with the trees to grow back and help put out some of these fires. Sadly there's no rain forecast anytime soon.

Mt Tomah devastation

Mt Tomah area is the worst hit. Coming up the hill to Mt Bell 998m the signs have been completely melted off and lay on the road as pieces of molten aluminum. I believe that aluminum melts at over 660°C that's how hot these fires are getting up to. Even the steel railing was buckled from the heat.

Melted Signage
Riding on a couple more kilometres I saw a rock vantage point on the left side that looked out over the surrounding hills looking towards Mt Banks. I climbed to the top which is never easy in Motorcycle boots. The view here would normally be beautiful but not today. But it does show the size and scale of the destruction.

Looking South towards Mt Banks(Centre)

Looking North from the location above
From here we rode into Lithgow, the fires had burn out tree's all the way into Lithgow coming down the twisty hill at the end of the range. Looking across the other side of Lithgow the hills were covered in burnt tree's.

We decided to head back via the Great Western Highway and it was getting quite hot up here today, up to 36°C. It's not normally that hot up here but perhaps that due to not tree cover and everything is now black absorbing heat? On our way back through Katoomba the temp dropped by 6°C in less than a kilometre. That was like someone switched on the air conditioning. Just a short ride today but great to get out for a ride on the first day of the year.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes mate it is heartbreaking to see it like this.

  2. I feel pretty emotional seeing the devastation every night on the news Steve. There's a moto blogger called Sue Hines (Occasional Adventures of Betty) who lives at Mallacoota. She doesn't post much these days and hope that both she and her property are ok. We had hazy skies all day yesterday over the north island of NZ and apparently, dark ash has fallen on the glaciers down south. You guys take good care of yourselves mate.

    1. Hi Geoff
      I also follow Sue's blog. When I saw Mallacoota up in flames I was thinking of her. I hope she is ok.
      It has been a bit emotional watching this on tv as a lot of these places I have been to and stay at or passed through there. I feel for the people in these places. Tourists will flee, these places wont recover without tourist dollars to keep them ticking over. So Sad.

      Cheers mate

  3. Pretty dire Steve. As Geoff says, it's all over our news and there's some more of our guys heading over to try and help out.

    Fingers crossed you get some rain and they can bring things back under control ASAP.

    1. It is mate. I saw that some 170 odd kiwi fireys are here fighting the fires. Makes me smile that the ANZAC spirit is still alive and kicking.
      Sadly there is no rain predicted at this stage. Its all up the the RFS and Army now until it does rain.

  4. Sure hope some rain falls soon.

    Very little about Australia makes the news in Asia (which might surprised some Aussies) but this has, and the actions of the Prime Minister, which is extremely rare indeed for foreign tv here to broadcast.

    I'm stopping over in Sydney on my way home to Townsville this April Steve and renting a bike for 4 days. I keep altering my ride route only to discover another area is now burning. I'll hit you up for some ideas when it gets closer.

    Incredibly hard over here to know what is happening on the ground there. I guess that is probably same for events all over the world we watch on SBS for people from those countries - I just never appreciated it fully.

    1. There's a little bit of rain happening down the south coast now, sadly not enough to put out the fires, but surely it has to be better than none.
      No problem, I'd expect by the time you arrive all roads should be open. The Snowy mountains has been hit hard in the last 2 days as well as victorian highlands around Bright, Corryong etc.

  5. Hi Geoff and Chiller - agreed - it's gobsmackingly awful.
    I'm ok, my house is ok, much of my town is ok. Perhaps 100 homes lost, but we were really very lucky. It could've been so much worse. The natural environment is a mess. It's hard to grasp the sheer scale of the devastation. Thanks for the photos, Chiller. I shall be posting some of Mallacoota a little later. Thanks so much for thinking of me and remembering where I live. Cheers folks!

    1. Good to know you are safe and well Sue. Terrible times, but houses can be rebuilt. Lives cannot.