2012–13 Australian bushfire season

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2012–13 Australian bushfire season
2013 bushfire tasmania 0001.jpg
Fires in Tasmania 2013
Location Australia
Date(s) Late Winter (August) 2012 – Autumn (May) 2013
Burned area >914,760 ha (2,260,400 acres)
185 (to 12 May)
Injuries 11
Fatalities 4

The 2012–13 Australian bushfire season had above average fire potential for most of the southern half of the continent from the east coast to the west. This is despite having extensive fire in parts of the country over the last 12 months. The reason for this prediction is the abundant grass growth spurred by two La Niña events over the last two years.[1]

Most parts of the country experienced a heat wave at the start of 2013, with a new national average maximum being set on 7 January 2013. The new record of 40.33 °C (105 °F) beat the old record of 40.17 °C (104 °F) that had been set on 21 December 1972. Another record also beaten in 2013 was Australia's mean temperature climbing from 31.86 °C (89 °F) set on 21 December 1972 to 32.23 °C (90 °F) on 7 January 2013.[2]

Additionally, six of the 20 hottest days in Australian records (by average maximum) have been in January 2013.

Australia also experienced its hottest summer on average following a particularly hot spell in January. Using average day and night temperatures the average was found to be 28.6 °C (83 °F) beating the previous record set in the summer of 1997–1988.[3] Fourteen of the weather bureau's 112 long term weather stations recorded their hottest days on record including one in Sydney that recorded a daytime record of 46 °C (115 °F). The daytime maximum temperatures for 2012–13 also beat the 1982–83 record and January was the hottest month since records began in 1910.[4]


Northern Territory

A bushfire burnt out a large area of pasture at Newcastle Waters Station on 20 August when a car caught fire on the Stuart Highway, the fire to the east of the highway was extinguished but the area to the west was controlled by station workers to keep it away from stock. The fire eventually came to Lake Longreach within the station where it burnt out in the damp conditions.[5]



Fire crews battled blazes on the Atherton Tableland to keep a bushfire behind containment lines near Millstream on 24 September, the fires were thought to be started by arsonists.[6] It was brought under control later the following day after three houses were evacuated and 15 square kilometres (3,707 acres) of bushland were burnt out.

New South Wales

Fire broke out in the Awabakal Nature reserve between Dudley and Redhead 24 September. During the course of the day the fire consumed 140 hectares (346 acres) of bushland and was brought under control the following day following rain in the area.[7]

Northern Territory

Two fires were burning in the West MacDonnell Ranges on 4 September as was a larger fire about 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Curtin Springs Station, the Lasseter Highway had to be closed in the area due to the resulting smoke hazard.[8]

Western Australia

In 2012 a fire was burning for three days near Madura Station covering the Eyre Highway in smoke. Over 300 hectares (741 acres) of bushland was consumed by the blaze.[9]



Huge fires consumed over 1,100,000 acres (445,154 ha) of grasslands in gulf area.[10] Graziers were left with very little feed left for 50,000–60,000 head of cattle in the area and the historic Croydon -Esmeralda Homestead that dated back to the 1800s was also burnt to the ground.

New South Wales

Five bushfires were burning simultaneously in the Singleton area in late October including one in the Pokolbin State forest.[11]

Northern Territory

Dry storms caused the outbreak of hundreds of fires in the border region of the Northern Territory and Western Australia over a week between 14 and 23 October. Affected areas included Curtin Springs Station who had (also been hit by fires in September), Lyndavale Station and Petermann Aboriginal Land Trust, approximately 400 kilometres (249 mi) south west of Alice Springs. Many of the fires were left to burn in areas that were inaccessible and high winds made containment too difficult.[12] Curtin Springs lost over 250,000 acres (101,171 ha) of bush, nearly a quarter of its pasture land, as a result of the fires.[13] Surrounding stations Angus downs and King's Creek lost similar amounts.

Western Australia

A bush fire broke out on private land near Two Peoples Bay on 12 October[14] and a team of about 20 fire-fighters arrived to combat the blaze.[15] Following a sudden change in wind direction a track carrying two of the fire crew was engulfed in flames.[16] The two women, both females, received terrible burns. The 45-year-old woman received burns to 60% of her body was admitted to hospital in critical condition and the 24-year-old had burns to 40% of her body and was also critical but stable. Both women were transferred from Albany via the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Perth.[17] Three other fire crew were injured, a second truck was burnt out and over 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) of bushland were burnt before the fire was contained later the same day. The older woman, Wendy Bearfoot, died in Royal Perth Hospital 1 November as a result of her injuries, a WorkSafe investigation was launched to investigate the circumstances.[18]


New South Wales

Properties were threatened by a bushfire at Lake Macquarie on 1 November. The fire burnt out over 200 hectares (494 acres) of bushland and was eventually contained by 120 members of the Rural Fire Service the following day.[19]

Two fires broke out in the Upper Hunter Region on 25 November. The first fire was burning in the Wollemi National Park and the second near Bunnan had burned out 120 hectares (297 acres). Both were under control on 26 November.[20]

Northern Territory

Two large fires resulted in large areas of bushland being burnt. The fires were burning uncontrollably on 19 November, one east of Tennant Creek and another on Yambah Station about 60 kilometres (37 mi) north of Alice Springs. Both fires were monitored and some back burning was done in an effort to control the blazes.[21]

South Australia

Seven houses were lost along with sheds and vehicles on 11 November in a fire that swept through 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of land at Tulka near Port Lincoln.[22] Lightning strikes caused over 100 fires to ignite around the state on 20 November. Fires on the Eyre peninsula were the most difficult with one fire advancing to within 7 kilometres (4 mi) of Port Lincoln. A number of residents evacuated their homes after 500 hectares (1,236 acres) of bush was lost despite the efforts of 120 fire-fighters and five waterbombers used to combat the blaze.[23] The following day a further 31,591 lightning strikes initiated a further 300 fires, 600 volunteers worked overnight to extinguish the majority of fires. The Port Lincoln fire continued to burn consuming a total of 1,700 hectares (4,201 acres) of scrub.[24]


Several fires erupted in late November, including a major fire at Forcett, in which 11 firefighters were evacuated with injuries after a wind change.[25][26] There were other fires, such as the one at Glenlusk on the outskirts of Hobart and another major fire at Poatina in the Central Lakes district. The fire at Forcett was rapidly bought under control, while the one at Glenlusk posed serious danger to houses and farms (and actually destroyed several vehicles and shacks).[26] The fire at Poatina Road in the Central Lakes District was burning out of control two weeks later[27] and was only bought under control in the middle of January.[28]


A huge blaze broke out near Casterton on 21 November and quickly burnt out over 4,000 hectares (9,884 acres) bushland. Fire crews employed back burns to create control lines around the fire, which was extinguished a few days later.[29]



A fire broke out on North Stradbroke Island, off Brisbane on 8 December. By 10 December several properties had been lost to the fire at Myora Springs.[30] Several other fires were burning around the state including two west of Brisbane and another near Ipswich.

New South Wales

On 16 December, a grass fire broke out 9 kilometres (5.6 mi) east of the village of Murringo. The fire burnt over 3,400 hectares (8,402 acres) of grassland, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) of fencing and killed 500 sheep.[31]

South Australia

A bushfire started 23 December about 18 kilometres (11 mi) south west from Padthaway and burned out over 5,000 hectares (12,355 acres) of scrub and grassland.


The town of Langkoop was threatened by fire that burned over 300 hectares (741 acres) of grassland before being controlled, residents had been evacuated to Edenhope. This was one of 35 fires that started 23 and 24 December around the state.[32]


Smoke and flames from the Oura fire visible from the city of Wagga Wagga
Northern Territory Fire 2013
New South Wales

A bush fire broke out on Nail Can Hill in Albury on 1 January, which threatened homes along Yambla and Forest Hill Avenue and saw the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) issue an emergency warning.[33][34] The fire burnt 5 hectares (12 acres) of bushland.[33]

On 5 January, approximately thirty fires were ignited by lightning strikes, broke out near Wymah, Jingellic, Henty and also within the City of Wagga Wagga, Tumut Shire and Tumbarumba Shire local government areas.[35][36] Around 600 hectares (1,483 acres) was burnt with damage to fencing and 1000 sheep killed in a fast moving grass fire caused by a lightning strike at Big Springs.[36][37] A bushfire at Ournie burnt 550 hectares (1,359 acres) of bushland.[36] Fires burning in remote areas near Griffith are around 200–300 hectares (494–741 acres) in size.[37]

On 7 January, a fast moving grass fire broke out near the village of Oura, which saw an emergency warning issued by the NSW RFS when the fire threatened the village, but it was later downgraded to a 'watch and act' when weather conditions eased.[38] 140 volunteers from the NSW RFS, six aircraft; including an Erickson Air-Crane and four heavy plant equipment were used to try and contain the fire, which burnt approximately 800 hectares (1,977 acres), destroying one vehicle and causing minor burns to a firefighter after being over-run by the fire in a firefighting tanker.[38][39] The cause of the fire is thought to have been caused by a lightning strike on 5 January.[40]

On 13 January, a bushfire burning in the Warrumbungle National Park destroyed 33 homes west of Coonabarabran, which saw the forced evacuation of about 100 people, burnt out 40,000 hectares (98,842 acres) of bushland and damaged the Siding Spring Observatory.[41] By 17 January 51 homes and 113 farm outbuildings had been destroyed.[42]

Fires in Yarrabin near Cooma and Shoalhaven burnt out 20,000 hectares (49,421 acres) of mostly bushland.[43]

Northern Territory

During the course of a heat wave several fires broke out in the Northern Territory. One fire that originated in the Watarrka National Park spread into the Kings Canyon resort on 8 January causing damage and leading to the evacuation of 120 staff and guests. A second fire at Napperby station had burnt through 200 square kilometres (77 sq mi) with 50 feet (15 m) flames jumping containment lines.[44]

Smoke plume from the Copping/Forcett fire

Several large bushfires started on the afternoon of 3 January, including blazes at Lake Repulse, Richmond and Inala Rd, Forcett.[45] The bushfires in both the Forcett and Lake Repulse areas both rapidly burned out over 1,000 hectares of land, burning in an easterly direction as a result of the prevailing Westerly wind, which pushed the Forcett Fire parallel to the Arthur Highway. It was attacked front on by Tasmania Fire Service crews and stopped just short of Copping in the evening of 3 January.[46] A Northerly wind change on 4 January caused the fire to jump the Arthur Highway by 3pm on 4 January and spread south towards Primrose Sands and Dunalley.[47][48] At least one hundred buildings, including 10 in Copping and 65 in Dunalley were destroyed.[49] The fire spread towards the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas, threatening the townships of Murdunna and Eaglehawk Neck.[50][51]

Meanwhile, another major fire burned to the north of Hobart at Lake Repulse, threatening the communities of Elendale, Ouse and Meadowbank, it was also expected that the communities of Hamilton and Lawrenny would be impacted by 6am on the morning of 6 January.[48]

South Australia

Temperatures soared to 43.8 °C (111 °F) near Finniss, south of Adelaide, shortly before a bushfire broke out on 4 January. About 300 hectares (741 acres) of crops, farmland and vineyards were destroyed by the fire along with a portion of rail tracks for the Steam Ranger until it was brought under control by 60 fire fighters and waterbombers.[52]


A fire broke out in Kentbruck in the southwest of the state on 4 January. It had covered 7,050 hectares (17,421 acres) by 8 January, posing a threat to the nearby communities of Drik Drik and Dartmoor.[53] On 8 January a 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) fire to the west of Ballarat swept through the localities of Snake Valley, Chepstowe and Carngham destroying nine homes including the historic homestead Carngham Station.[54][55]

On 17 January a fire began in bushland in the Donnelly Creek Road area near Aberfeldy. As the fire spread to the east, 61 children and 15 adults were evacuated from the Licola Wilderness Village, while 10 residents and about 30 firefighters remained in Licola.[56][57] By the following day the fire had covered 48,000 hectares (118,611 acres), with spot fires starting to the south-east at Coongulla, Glenmaggie, Heyfield, Newry and Seaton. 22 houses were destroyed as well as a number of dwellings at Glenmaggie Caravan Park.[58][59] On 18 January, it was announced the body of a man was found in his burnt out vehicle in Seaton.[60] By 30 January the fire had burnt out a total area of 75,000 hectares (185,329 acres).[58]

Western Australia

A fire broke out in the Shire of Gingin near Lennard Brooke on 26 January and raged out of control overnight while burning through 65 hectares (161 acres) of bushland. Over 50 firefighters were required to save homes and sheds from the blaze and had the blaze under ccontrol the following day.[61] Bushfires were also burning around Busselton which were thought to have been deliberately lit, following the outbreak of about 25 fires over the course of the month. Another fire was accidentally started by the exhaust of a quad-bike being used to spray weeds by a contractor on 29 January at the Benger Swamp reserve south of Harvey. Over 300 hectares (741 acres) of scrub was burned before it was brought under control.[62]

A bushfire near Carnarvon was burning on the north eastern side of town on 28 January. The fire burnt out of control with strong winds starting spot fires among the banana plantations.[63] The blaze was controlled a day later but not before 1,400 hectares (3,459 acres) of bushland destroying 20 derelict buildings and sheds, but leaving the plantations with only minor damage.[64]



On 10 February 13 bushfires were burning across the state. The largest of these, at Molesworth to the north-west of Hobart, had burnt more than 1,900 hectares (4,695 acres), destroying sheds, cars and a caravan.[65]


On 8 February a bushfire fanned by strong winds came within 50 metres (160 ft) of homes near Mount Hotham. The fire, which was started by lightning on 21 January in the Alpine National Park near Harrietville, had increased in size to approximately 14,000 hectares (34,595 acres).[66][67]

On 13 February, two fire fighters from the Department of Sustainability and Environment were killed after a tree fell on a vehicle they were in, while fighting the Harrietville fire, which has burnt 27,000 hectares (66,718 acres) of bushland.[68] The fire ended up burning for 55 days in total and destroyed 37,000 hectares (91,429 acres) of public and private land.[69]

A large fire started in Donnybrook on 18 February.[70] The grassfire became an out of control blaze, burning approximately 2,040 hectares (5,041 acres) as it headed south from Donnybrook towards the northern suburbs of Melbourne. 170 firefighters in 40 trucks battled the flames on a hot and gusty day.[70]

On the same day bushfires burning in the Victoria Valley in the Grampians National Park merged, threatening properties in the Mirranatwa community in western Victoria.[71][72] The merged fire complex was approximately 3,260 hectares (8,056 acres) in size[72] and starting spot fires up to 300 metres (984 ft) ahead.[71] Water bombers were brought into assist fire fighters on the ground.[71] The fires started from lightning strikes on 14 February.[72] By 21 February the Victoria Valley Complex fire had burned 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) and threatened the areas Woohlpooer and Mooralla. [73] Within one day this fire had grown to 31,500 hectares (77,838 acres) with 350 firefighters on the ground and up to 14 aircraft fighting the blaze.[74] On 27 February the fire was declared contained after burning through 35,875 hectares (88,649 acres) and destroying 3 sheds, 60 sheep, 130 kilometres of fencing, 65 hectares (161 acres) of hardwood forest and 30 tonnes of hay.[75]

Western Australia

A bushfire broke out under suspicious circumstances[76] in the outer suburb of Pink Lake in Esperance on 4 February. 50 firefighters and two fixed wing waterbombers were required to contain the blaze.[77] The fire burnt through an area of over 500 hectares (1,236 acres) and one home was destroyed in the blaze.[78]

Another fire broke on 5 February out near Boddington and burnt out of control destroying a cottage. An area over 800 hectares (1,977 acres) was burnt out before the fire was contained.[76]

Fires broke out south east of Byford on the South Western Highway in Whitby on 12 February. An emergency warning was issued as the fire headed toward the Darling Range through thick forest with a scattering of houses. [79]

Another fire started 13 February near the Blackwood River near Southampton and then burnt out of control through the surrounding forest before destroying two homes, including the historic Southampton Homestead, and 1,700 hectares (4,201 acres) near Bridgetown.[80]

More fires broke out 15 February including one north of Australind near Leschenault that threatened homes and properties. Another further south near Kin Kin which had started earlier in the week from lightning strikes had burnt through 1,232 hectares (3,044 acres) of bushland. Human remains were found in a shack in Kin Kin on 15 February.[81]

Lightning started a fire near Bindoon on 21 February and quickly burnt through 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of bushland pushed by strong winds and threatening nearby homes. The blaze was brought under control the following day when favourable weather conditions prevailed.[82]

A volunteer fire-fighter was killed on 22 February while cleaning up after a fire in Quindanning about 160 kilometres (99 mi) south east of Perth. The man was hit by a falling branch and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced as dead on arrival.[83]

Fires threatened homes in Upper Swan on 26 February before being brought under control by over 70 fire-fighters. Residents were evacuated as the blaze consumed 150 hectares (371 acres) of bushland.[84]

More fires started on 28 February at Shady Hills in Bullsbrook and the western end of Walyunga National Park. Over 200 fire-fighters were required to bring the blaze under control by the following day, but not before the blaze burned out over 1,500 hectares (3,707 acres)[85] of bushland.[86]



On 27 March, a bushfire at Dereel, south of Ballarat destroyed 16 houses and 18 sheds. Four firefighters required hospital treatment for minor burns and smoke inhalation. The fire, which covered 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres), was brought under control in the evening.[87]


South Australia

On 9 May, a private burn-off north of Cherryville in the Adelaide Hills escaped the landowner's control and burnt east into inaccessible countryside.[88] More than 250 Country Fire Service volunteers and four aerial water bombers took three days to contain the fire, assisted by rain on the evening of the third day. One house and two sheds were destroyed, with the fire burning 670 hectares (1,700 acres) of scrub and farmland. Two firefighters were treated for minor injuries.[89] The fire was notable in that it occurred outside the fire-ban season, leading to calls that the season should be extended.[90]


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