Canberra Fires of 2003
The Canberra bushfire began on Saturday 18th January 2003, with reports suggesting that it was started by a Lightning Strike, to the north of Canberra. In the few hours the few hours that proceeded, the fires raged out of control. Another fire close to the one started by the lightning, ended up joining it, creating a massive fire front, roaring towards Canberra. No warning could prepare the people of Canberra for what was happening. They did not have much time to fight the fires. They were instructed by the fire crews to leave their houses and flee.
Over 300 homes were lost. One suburb, Duffy, was hardest hit. Just about every house in this one suburb was destroyed or partly burnt by the fires. Damage was reported to be in the hundreds of millions, with many treasured possessions lost, never to be recovered again.
This story of survival was heard on the radio station Nova 97.9. A neighbour from Duffy lived near a farm. The man who owned the farm didnt even try to save his home. He knew that he would never save it, so he went down the road, took his hose and helped his fellow neighbour save their home. That home was saved. However, the man with the farm lost his home. His neighbour said that he saw him the next day sleeping in his tractor with his dog on the side of the road.
That is a story of Aussies doing their best to look out for their mates.
Canberra was declared a disaster area by the Federal Government. Millions of dollars was donated by the people of Australia to help those people in crisis in Canberra. Millions of Aid Money was also handed out by the Government to those whose homes were destroyed.
In one day an entire large are of Canberra was lost. Due to one fire. This fire was also fueled by strong winds of 50 km/h fanning the fire front and propelling it towards Canberra. Due to the fact that Canberra is surrounded entirely by bush and scrub area, the fire had lots of natural fuel to help it along. The entire surrounding area of Canberra is Trees and farms. This would have helped the fire a lot to travel faster than usual.
Preliminary observations of the gardens of houses affected by the bushfires highlighted the importance of trees and shrubs that retain dead leaves and other material. Trees and shrubs such as conifers (cypress, pencil pines, etc), banksias or wattles that were not neatly maintained and contained significant dead material provided easy ignition from sparks, embers and flame contact. If such trees and shrubs were located next to the house they then appeared to provide a route for the fire to enter the house, via decks, pergolas, eaves or windows. Thick mulch on garden beds and wooden fences also appeared to provide a wick to houses, garages and sheds.
Residents were going about their lives as normal with little or no thought for the horror about to unfold in their city and their suburbs. They had heard of the Namadgi fire for days but it was at least 20km away too far to worry about.
Driving down Eucumbene Street in Duffy, the lone houses still standing are conspicuous by their presence, with burned and blackened shells on either side and all around.