Black Christmas (bushfires)

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The Black Christmas bushfires were bushfires that burnt for almost three weeks from 25 December 2001 across New South Wales (NSW), Australia. It was the longest continuous bushfire emergency in NSW history.

Low rainfall across winter & 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 a poorly extinguished campfire 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.[1] 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.[2][3] 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.[4] 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".[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Journal of Rural & Remote Health 3(1): 18-28 (2004)" (PDF). Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Eyewitness: Sydney's residents face fire wrath, BBC News, 28 December 2001
  3. ^ 2007 Essential Sydney, Sydney Morning Herald, taken from data provided by the NSW Department of Environment and Conservation
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Leaders warned on one-in-1000-year drought". 8 November 2006. Retrieved February 2014. 
  6. ^ "The 2010–11 La Niña: Australia soaked by one of the strongest events on record". Retrieved 9 February 2014. 
  7. ^ "Elvis - king of the firefighters". BBC News. 3 January 2002. Retrieved 9 February 2014. 

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