On the afternoon of the 18th January, 2003, the fires that had been burning to the west of Canberra were influenced by elevated fire danger and enhanced atmospheric instability. These produced a series of blow-up fire events across the landscape, which in turn produced a set of pyro-cumulonimbus (pyroCb) fire clouds. These are still amongst the most extreme fire clouds ever recorded. They produced many of the phenomena associated with severe thunderstorms, including a severe tornado.
The mid-level winds that afternoon carried the storms cells to the east-southeast, towards Canberra’s urban edge.
While many people in their path were focused on staying alive, Tom Bates was sufficiently out of harm’s way to use his video camera to record events. What he captured is – globally – unique. He was standing just west of the car park at the very southern tip of Kambah Playing Fields, looking northwest to Mt Arawang. A prominent part of the footage is the football goal post of the southern playing field.