Black Christmas bushfires

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Black Christmas bushfires
Location New South Wales
Statistics
Date(s) 24 December 2001 – 7 January 2002
Burned area 753,314 hectares (1861479 acres)[1]
Cause Power pole fire
Land use Urban/rural fringe areas, farmland and forest reserves
Buildings
destroyed
109 homes, 433 outbuildings[1]

The Black Christmas bushfires were bushfires that burnt for almost three weeks from 24 December 2001 to 7 January 2002 across New South Wales, Australia.[1] It was the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.

Low rainfall across winter and spring 2001 combined with a hot, dry December created ideal conditions for bushfires. On the day of Christmas Eve, firefighters from the Grose Vale Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade attended a blaze in rugged terrain at the end of Cabbage Tree Rd, Grose Vale, believed to have been caused by power lines in the Grose Valley.

On Christmas Day, strong westerly winds fuelled more than 100 bushfires across the state, creating a plume of smoke that extended across Sydney.[2] This plume of smoke would not clear for some days as the bushfires continued to burn, creating some of the worst pollution that Sydney has ever experienced, with a regional pollution index reading of: 200 in North-West Sydney; 120 in Central-East and South-West Sydney.[3][4] The fires mainly burnt in Lane Cove National Park, the Royal National Park & Blue Mountains National Park. Overall approximately 3,000 square kilometres (740,000 acres) were burnt. 121 homes were destroyed across the state and 36 damaged, mostly in the lower Blue Mountains and west of the Royal National Park around Helensburgh.[5] Arsonists were believed to be responsible for starting many of the fires, leading to harsher penalties for those who start bushfires.

The dry conditions that started the bushfires continued well into 2002, resulting in the worst drought in 100 years. The drought was declared a "one in 1000 year event".[6] The drought finally broke with the La Nina event of 2010–2011. Significantly higher than average rainfall began in July 2010, it was Australia's second wettest year on record.[7]

An Erickson S-64 Aircrane helicopter became something of a celebrity during this time. Elvis (N179AC) was loaned to NSW by Victoria and proved instantly successful.[8]

Start date Deaths Injuries Houses destroyed Area (ha) Local Govt. Impacted communities & description of damage Duration
3 December 2001 30 – 39 15,500 ha Wollondilly

—Belimba Park, Nattai, Oakdale, Silverdale, Thirlmere & Warragamba

8 factory buildings, 2 shops and dozens of other non-residential structures destroyed.[9][10][11]
43 days
24 December 2001 34 – 52 97,000 ha Shoalhaven

Bendalong, Berrara, Huskisson, Manyana, Sussex Inlet, Tomerong & Vincentia

5 industrial units, 21 businesses, 109 sheds, one scout hall, 53 vehicles, 11 tractors, 23 other items of farm equipment, 25 trailers, 21 boats and 580 beehives destroyed.[11][12][13][14][15][16]
29 days
23 December 2001 2 45,500 ha Clarence Valley

—Brooms Head

12 non-residential structures destroyed. 8 houses damaged.[17]
22 days
24 December 2001 4 14 112,000 ha Hawkesbury

Yarramundi & Blaxlands Ridge

Several non-residential structures destroyed.[9][11][18][19]
31 days
24 December 2001 12 42,000 ha Blue Mountains

Warrimoo, Valley Heights & Yellow Rock

8 houses damaged.[9][19][20][21]
20 days
25 December 2001 27 – 35 64,000 ha Sutherland & Wollongong

Heathcote, Waterfall, Helensburgh, Otford & Stanwell Tops

20 or more vehicles, 15 industrial premises, 14 commercial premises, 5 cottages, 2 large conference buildings and dozens of other non-residential structures destroyed. Scores of houses damaged.[9][10][22][23]
14 days
25 December 2001 4 8,200 ha Penrith

Glenmore Park & Mulgoa

[9][11]
6 days

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Christmas 2001/2002 bushfires". NSW Government. 8 May 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
  2. ^ "Journal of Rural & Remote Health 3(1): 18–28 (2004)" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  3. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1732047.stm Eyewitness: Sydney's residents face fire wrath, BBC News, 28 December 2001
  4. ^ 2007 Essential Sydney, Sydney Morning Herald, taken from data provided by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
  5. ^ [1][dead link]
  6. ^ "Leaders warned on one-in-1000-year drought". Theage.com.au. 8 November 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 
  7. ^ "The 2010–11 La Niña: Australia soaked by one of the strongest events on record". Bom.gov.au. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  8. ^ "Elvis – king of the firefighters". BBC News. 3 January 2002. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Counting the cost". Newcastle Herald (Fairfax Media). 27 December 2001. p. 4. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  10. ^ a b "Christmas Fires 2001 Special (Part Two)" (PDF). Bushfire Bulletin (New South Wales Rural Fire Service). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-07-17. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Bushfire Updates". bushfire.nsw.gov.au (NSW Rural Fire Service). 27 December 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-02-09. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  12. ^ Murphy, Sean (3 January 2002). "Bushfires continue to wreak havoc across NSW". 7:30 Report (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "At Nowra on Monday 22 April 2002" (PDF). parliament.nsw.gov.au. Joint Select Committee on Bushfires. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "Thousands flee as fires hit tiny towns". The Age (Fairfax Media). 3 January 2002. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  15. ^ Anthony Dennis; Stephanie Peatling (4 January 2002). "Smouldering Sussex Inlet wakes up to find the holiday is over". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  16. ^ Joanna Gash, Member for Gilmore (20 February 2002). "Main Committee; Christmas 2001 Bushfires". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: House of Representatives. p. 642. 
  17. ^ "Christmas Fires 2001 Special (Part One)" (PDF). Bushfire Bulletin (New South Wales Rural Fire Service). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-07-17. 
  18. ^ "At Sydney on Friday, 31 May 2002" (PDF). parliament.nsw.gov.au. Joint Select Committee on Bushfires. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Kerry Bartlett, Member for Macquarie (20 February 2002). "Main Committee; Christmas 2001 Bushfires". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: House of Representatives. p. 650. 
  20. ^ Leong Poon, Ph.D. "Bushfire Investigations - Warrimoo, Valley Heights and Yellow Rock, Lower Blue Mountains, NSW, 2001-2" (PDF). timber.net.au. National Timber Development Council. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Chipperfield, Mark (30 December 2001). "Bushfire victims begin rebuilding shattered lives". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  22. ^ "Black Christmas". historichelensburgh.org.au. Helensburgh and District Historical Society. 20 November 2012. Retrieved 30 April 2016. 
  23. ^ Dr. Stephen Paul Martin, Member for Cunningham (20 February 2002). "Main Committee; Christmas 2001 Bushfires". Parliamentary Debates (Hansard). Commonwealth of Australia: House of Representatives. p. 651. 

Coordinates: 33°47′01″S 151°08′19″E / 33.78361°S 151.13861°E / -33.78361; 151.13861