2015 Pinery bushfire

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2015 Pinery bushfire
LocationLower Mid North, Light River and west Barossa, South Australia, Australia
Coordinates34°18′36″S 138°25′26″E / 34.31000°S 138.42389°E / -34.31000; 138.42389 (ignition point)
Statistics
CostA$170 million[1]
Date(s)25 November 2015 – 2 December 2015 (2015-12-02)[2]
Burned areaMore than 85,000 hectares (210,000 acres)[3]
CauseUnknown, not considered suspicious
Land use
  • Residential
  • Farmland
  • Forest reserves
Buildings
destroyed
470+[4]
– 91 houses
– 388 non-residential structures
– 98 vehicles
– 93 items of farm machinery
Fatalities2[4]
Non-fatal injuries90[5]
– 5 critical[6]

The 2015 Pinery bushfire was a catastrophic bushfire that burned from 25 November to 2 December 2015, and primarily affected the Lower Mid North and west Barossa Valley regions immediately north of Gawler in the Australian state of South Australia. At least 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres) of scrub and farmland in the council areas of Light, Wakefield, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Mallala were burned during its duration.[7][8]

On 25 November, during the major run of the Pinery fire, two fatalities occurred; Janet Hughes, 56, perished while fleeing in a vehicle outside Hamley Bridge; Allan Tiller, 69, perished while fighting the fire on a neighbour's property in Pinery itself.[9][10][11] A further 90 people were hospitalized as a result of the fire, with five of the victims suffering critical injuries.[6]

The Pinery fire destroyed or rendered uninhabitable 91 houses, and completely destroyed 388 non-residential structures, 93 pieces of farm machinery and 98 other vehicles.[12][13][14][15] It also caused significant damage to rural produce; 53,000 poultry and 17,500 head of livestock perished and up to A$40 million worth of fodder and unharvested grains were destroyed.[1][6][15][16][17] Communities affected by the fire included Barabba, Daveyston, Freeling, Greenock, Hamley Bridge, Kapunda, Magdala, Mallala, Nain, Nuriootpa, Owen, Pinery, Pinkerton Plains, Redbanks, Roseworthy, Stockport, Tarlee, Templers, Wasleys and Woolsheds.

Climate and weather setting[edit]

Daily maximum temperatures were the highest on record for October in South Australia, averaging +5.61 °C above the mean.[18]

Daily rainfall records for November were observed across a large number of stations in the agricultural districts of South Australia on 4–5 November, with daily totals ranging from 30 millimetres (1.2 in) to 80 millimetres (3.1 in) over large areas; Tarlee observed a record 69.9 millimetres (2.75 in) falling on 5 November.[19][20] Several communities within the eventual fire ground recorded their highest November rainfall in at least 30 years; Tarlee observed the wettest November since 1971, with 79.8 millimetres (3.14 in).[21] However, extremely low rainfall was observed after 5 November and prior to the fire; 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in) at Nuriootpa and 1.6 millimetres (0.063 in) at Roseworthy.[22][23]

The record rainfall in early November prompted growth of both agricultural crops and other plant material, which increased the fuel load across the fire ground. More plant material was present in the fire ground than later in the fire season, as the fire occurred during a spring harvest period with predicted wheat yields of near the long-term average.[24] During the rest of November, this organic material quickly dried out as South Australia recorded mean temperatures in the warmest 10% of years, due in part to two high pressure systems that moved eastwards across southeastern Australia on 18–20 November and on 21–23 November.[25] Large areas of the state recorded daily maximum temperatures of +12 °C above average during the passage of both systems; on 18 November, Roseworthy recorded 41.6 °C (106.9 °F) and, on 19 November, Nuriootpa recorded 38.9 °C (102.0 °F).[22][23][25]

Weather on 25 November[edit]

The day prior to ignition of the Pinery fire, the Country Fire Service issued a warning for "Extreme" fire conditions in the Mid-North and Mount Lofty Ranges and declared a total fire ban in both regions for 25 November.[26]

The weather conditions around the Pinery fire on 25 November have been described as "catastrophic"; sustained north-westerly winds of 50–60 kilometres per hour (31–37 mph) and reputed gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) are believed to have fanned the fire front in a run of over 50 kilometres (31 mi) in the first 4 hours.[27] At Nuriootpa, the Bureau of Meteorology observed a maximum wind gust of 72 kilometres per hour (45 mph) from the northwest at 13:25 ACDT (UTC+10:30), the highest recording in November 2015.[22] 81 kilometres per hour (50 mph) from the west-north-west at 13:31 ACDT (UTC+10:30) was the highest recorded wind speed at Roseworthy that month, and the relative humidity of 11% at 9:00 ACDT (UTC+10:30) was also the lowest that month.[23]

At approximately 15:00 ACDT (UTC+10:30) the fire ground was affected by a cold front that passed across the entirety of southern Australia. The fire had initially spread to the south-east on a long narrow front, and when the cold front caused the prevailing wind to change direction, the long eastern flank became a broad front and the fire spread rapidly to the east and north. The wind at Roseworthy was observed as having shifted to 54 kilometres per hour (34 mph) from the west-south-west, and the mean sea level pressure had fallen to a low of 999.4 at 15:00 ACDT (UTC+10:30).[23]

Fire timeline[edit]

Around noon on 25 November, the Pinery fire was started by a spark from an electric fence in a paddock bordering Plains Road and Port Lorne Road in the lower Mid North wheat-growing locality of Pinery, 70 kilometres (43 mi) due north of Adelaide's centre.[28] Shortly after noon, the first alert message for the Pinery fire was issued by the Country fire service, the fire burning west of Avon on Port Lorne Road. The warning was upgraded 10 minutes later to emergency level, with the fire burning in a south-easterly direction and impacting on properties around Mallala.[29] According to a Pinery farmer who spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Landline program, local farmers were "...confronted with two kilometres of 30-foot-high wall of flame."[1] An hour later the emergency warning area was expanded to include Magdala, Pinkerton Plains, Redbanks, Wasleys and Woolsheds as the fire moved in a south-easterly direction, and by 14:30 ACDT (UTC+10:30) the fire was impacting properties in the areas around Gawler, Hewett and Roseworthy.[30]

However, a wind change passed the fire ground at approximately 15:00 ACDT (UTC+10:30), causing the fire front to expand in a northerly direction, and by 15:17 ACDT (UTC+10:30) the fire was traveling in a north-easterly direction towards Barabba, Freeling, Greenock, Hamley Bridge, Kapunda, Nuriootpa, Owen and Tarlee.[31] At 16:25 ACDT (UTC+10:30), the area placed under an emergency warning was expanded again to include Dutton, Eudunda, Marrabel and Riverton.[32] A worker at a piggery between Wasleys and Mallala reportedly "...drove 120 kilometres per hour in one direction away from the fire, before seeing the wind swing around and having to double back in the opposite direction." The man, who spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation described "...flames taller than buildings".[33] The members of three Country Fire Service brigades were trapped between Wasleys and Mallala during the wind change and sheltered in their vehicles during a burn over, however there were no injuries.[5]

At 21:30 ACDT (UTC+10:30) all warnings for the Pinery fire were downgraded to "watch and act", however the fire had already impacted directly on property as far north as Tarlee, as far east as Belvidere and as far south as Roseworthy.[7][34] By 26 November, approximately 400 firefighters and 70 firefighting appliances had been deployed to fight the fire and both the Horrocks and Thiele Highways were closed to all but emergency traffic.[35] On 2 December, eight days after ignition, all warnings for the fire ceased; the fire had burned property across a fire front of over 210 kilometres (130 mi).[33][36] During the entire duration of the fire, at least 1,700 firefighters and volunteers were deployed, including a large interstate deployment of strike teams from Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA).[37]

Aftermath[edit]

There were two human fatalities during the Pinery fire, both on the afternoon of 25 November. Janet Hughes, 56, was trapped in her car on Owen Road outside Hamley Bridge and died at the scene. Fellow residents believed Mrs. Hughes was attempting to reach her partner, who was at work in nearby Balaklava, when her car left the road and ignited.[38] While assisting another man to defend a neighbor's property, Allan Tiller, 69, was overcome by the fire front in a Pinery paddock and died of his injuries at the scene.[9][10][11]

Significant damage was caused to numerous communities across an 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres) area in the council areas of Light, Wakefield, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Mallala.[39] At least 91 houses were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by fire damage during the Pinery fire, the vast majority during the initial six hours after ignition.[12][40] In the town of Wasleys, a lawn bowls club and a post office were gutted by the fire.[39] Also destroyed were 388 non-residential buildings, 98 vehicles and 93 pieces of farm machinery.[15] Numerous civilian vehicles were destroyed along the Horrocks, Sturt and Thiele highways as people attempted to flee; approximately 110 kilometres (68 mi) of roads and roads infrastructure—including bridges and signage—were damaged or destroyed by the fire.[41]

The fire had a catastrophic impact upon the rural industry of Lower Mid North, Light River and west Barossa regions. A large quantity of livestock perished in the fire, including 53,600 poultry, 17,000 sheep, 500 pigs, 87 cattle, 19 horses and three Alpaca.[15] Many of the livestock were buried in mass graves across the region.[42] Approximately two-thirds of the area burned in the Pinery fire was estimated to have been paddocks and fields of produce; 120,000 tonnes of agricultural crops—including wheat, barley, canola, lentils and chickpeas—with a value of up to A$40 million were destroyed.[17][43]

On 17 March 2016, winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) during a thunderstorm that passed over the fire ground created a dust storm, which affected towns in the mid-north of South Australia and in the Barossa Valley.[44]

Aid and recovery[edit]

Those in the Light, Wakefield, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Mallala council areas who suffered loss or injury as a result of the fires were able to claim a one-off Disaster Recovery Payment and, in some cases, a 13-week Disaster Recovery Allowance, both provided by the State Government of South Australia.[45]

$A84,000 was donated by businesses and the community to the RSPCA, which then allocated the funds to the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and the Veterinary Health Centres to treat pets and livestock injured in the blaze.[46]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Straight, Kerry (11 March 2016). "From the Ashes: Pinery Fires". Landline. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 28 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Warnings and Incidents". SA Country Fire Service. Government of South Australia. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015. PORT LORNE ROAD, PINERY Grass Fire; First Reported: Wednesday, 25 Nov 2015 12:05:00; Status: GOING; Region: 2
  3. ^ "Pinery fire – Nov 2015". Government of South Australia. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Live blog: SA fires". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  5. ^ a b Elizabeth Henson; Lauren Novak (1 December 2015). "Pinery bushfire: Emergency radio system failed at height of blaze, trapping firefighters". Adelaide Advertiser. News Corp. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Lauren Novak; Doug Robertson (28 November 2015). "Clean-up of Pinery fire ground begins, with 450 insurance claims lodged to value of $61 million". Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Pinery Fire – Situation Map – 1900 hrs 25/11/2015 – CFS". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  8. ^ Sam Duluk, Member for Davenport (3 December 2015). "Pinery Bushfires – Grievance Debate". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). South Australia: House of Assembly.
  9. ^ a b Jade Gailberger; Doug Robertson; Jordanna Schriever (26 November 2015). "Pinery bushfire victims identified as Janet Hughes and Allan Tiller". Adelaide Advertiser. News Corp. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b "SA bushfire: Allan Tiller identified as 69yo victim killed in Pinery fire". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  11. ^ a b "SA bushfire: Hamley Bridge community mourns Janet Hughes, who helped provide firestorm refuge". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  12. ^ a b McLoughlin, Chris (19 December 2015). "Pinery bushfire: Tally of homes destroyed rises to 91 as SA Govt prepares to hand out first relief payments". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  13. ^ "SA bushfire: 77 homes confirmed destroyed in deadly blaze as threat eases". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2015.
  14. ^ "SA bushfire: 87 homes destroyed or damaged in deadly Pinery blaze, Premier confirms". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 27 November 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  15. ^ a b c d Jay Weatherill, Member for Cheltenham, Premier of South Australia (1 December 2015). "Pinery Bushfires – Ministerial Statement". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). South Australia: House of Assembly.
  16. ^ James, Colin (27 November 2015). "Pinery Fire: Country Fire Service declares fire is contained as residents confront widespread devastation". Adelaide Advertiser. Retrieved 27 November 2015.
  17. ^ a b Whiting, Natalie (1 December 2015). "SA bushfire: Farmers hit by fires face years of land rehabilitation after $40m worth of crops lost". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  18. ^ Bureau of Meteorology 2015a, pp. 7–8
  19. ^ Bureau of Meteorology 2015b, p. 9
  20. ^ Bureau of Meteorology 2015b, p. 18
  21. ^ Bureau of Meteorology 2015b, p. 20
  22. ^ a b c "Nuriootpa, South Australia; November 2015 Daily Weather Observations". bom.gov.au. Bureau of Meteorology (Australian Government). Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  23. ^ a b c d "Roseworthy, South Australia; November 2015 Daily Weather Observations". bom.gov.au. Bureau of Meteorology (Australian Government). Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  24. ^ Rural Solutions SA (2015). "Crop and Pasture Report – South Australia" (PDF). Primary Industries and Regions South Australia. p. 15. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  25. ^ a b Bureau of Meteorology 2015b, pp. 7–8
  26. ^ "CFS Fire Ban and Fire Danger Rating – Issued 24 Nov 16:35". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Authority. 24 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  27. ^ Kate Dowler; Alice Pohlner (2 December 2015). "Crop, stock hit hard in South Australia and Western Australia fires". Weekly Times. News Corp. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  28. ^ Rice, Steve (16 December 2015). "Police identify Pinery fire origin but investigations continue". Adelaide Advertiser. News Corp. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  29. ^ "Emergency Warning Message – PINERY Issued 25 Nov 12:28". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  30. ^ "Emergency Warning Message – PINERY Issued 25 Nov 14:27". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  31. ^ "Emergency Warning Message – PINERY Issued 25 Nov 15:17". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  32. ^ "Emergency Warning Message – PINERY Issued 25 Nov 16:26". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  33. ^ a b Michael Dulaney; James Jooste (27 November 2015). "After the fire: Pinery residents return home". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  34. ^ "Watch and Act Message – PINERY Issued 25 Nov 21:31". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  35. ^ "Two dead, over 85,000ha burnt in Pinery blaze". Barossa Herald. Fairfax Media. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  36. ^ "Crews Remain On-Scene as Threat from Pinery Fire Reduces; Issued 01 Dec 18:47". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. 25 November 2015. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  37. ^ "Bushfire History". cfs.sa.gov.au. Country Fire Service. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  38. ^ Rice, Steve (9 December 2015). "Pinery fire: Andrew Lemmon tells of desperately trying to find fiancee Janet Hughes in the smoke". Adelaide Advertiser. News Corp. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  39. ^ a b "SA bushfires mapped: What happened where". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  40. ^ Robertson, Doug (27 January 2016). "Families devastated by the Pinery bushfire confused by EPA stance on dumping". Adelaide Advertiser. News Corp. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  41. ^ "DPTI's ongoing efforts in Pinery Bushfire recovery". Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure. Government of South Australia. 12 January 2016. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  42. ^ Coggan, Michael (27 November 2015). "SA bushfire: Farmers shoot injured sheep and bury flocks in mass graves". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  43. ^ Peter Jean; Ken McGregor; Sarah Rohweder (27 November 2015). "Farmers in Mid-North start counting loss from Pinery fire devastation". news.com.au. News Corp. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  44. ^ "Dust storm sweeps up from Pinery fire ground as strong winds lash South Australia". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  45. ^ "Pinery fire – Nov. 2015; Recovery assistance". Department of the Premier and Cabinet. Government of South Australia. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  46. ^ "$84,000 donated to save animals injured after Pinery fire". adelaide.edu.au. University of Adelaide. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2016.

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