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We had a fire tornado in the 2003 fires?

By 20 November 2012 12

Fire tornados have been getting a lot of press lately as shown in the video above and yesterday’s Cracked.com.

So it’s intriguing Justice and Community Safety are trumpeting new research announcing a firenado was present during the 2003 fires in Canberra.

This prompted Government enforcer and sometime spin king Jeremy Lasek (current title: Executive Director Culture and Communications, Chief Minister and Cabinet, ACT Government) to claim vindication on Twitter:

Here in the bunker we can’t help holding onto a lingering belief that if a State of Emergency had been declared six hours earlier, and warnings made 24 hours earlier, injury, loss of property, and life, would likely have been reduced.

But intriguing to see it coming up again nearly 10 years on.

fire tornado

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12 Responses to
We had a fire tornado in the 2003 fires?
bugmenot 10:14 am
20 Nov 12
#1

How can it be a “World First” – there’s been more than one or two firestorms in the planets 4 billion year history..

Furthermore, they weren’t talking about a tornado made *of* fire – they were talking about a tornado generated by the firestorm. The former is fairly common (Google “Firewhirl”)

bugmenot 10:15 am
20 Nov 12
#2

FTFA: ” In one instance, an intense pyro-convective cell developed a tornado. We demonstrate that this was indeed a tornado, the first confirmed pyro-tornadogenesis in Australia, and not a fire whirl”

davo101 10:59 am
20 Nov 12
#3

The interesting thing about the Canberra event is that the fire generated a true tornado. What’s in the video clip is a fire whirl which is not a tornado.

By the way Mr Lasek, it’s the first confirmed pyro-tornadogenesis event in Australia, not the first time this has happened.

Treacle 11:17 am
20 Nov 12
#4

bugmenot said :

How can it be a “World First” – there’s been more than one or two firestorms in the planets 4 billion year history..

Furthermore, they weren’t talking about a tornado made *of* fire – they were talking about a tornado generated by the firestorm. The former is fairly common (Google “Firewhirl”)

About three cities in World War Two had fire storms as fierce.

imagesplat 12:04 pm
20 Nov 12
#5

Interesting that this comes out now. CSIRO (?) researchers were looking at this ~9 years ago, and were talking to people around Chapman in 03. Unfortnately I have no idea where/if the findings were published.

From a quick search: http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/s794270.htm there are references to cyclonic winds:
“Narration: So where had these cyclonic winds come from? Not far beyond the popular Cotter Reserve picnic spot, Phil Cheney and Jim Gould made an awesome discovery- a fractured 15 kilometre long trail of destruction. Mature pine trees had been snapped like matchsticks by winds that may have reached 250km/h.”

“Narration: But this fire was different. In the nearby suburb of Chapman, embers were carried on winds with the strength of a cyclone. Around Lincoln Close, a mini tornado brought down powerlines and uprooted trees. Roofing iron and tiles were ripped from houses.”

The desciption of Lincoln Close is accurate. One house was lost when winds uprooted a large gum tree which fell on the roof. The roof was completely torn off another nearby place, and derbis scattered up the hill for some distance.

Anyone know who was doing the research?

dungfungus 12:10 pm
20 Nov 12
#6

Before everyone gets over excited, a couple of facts need to be examined.
The book Bushfires in Australia (RH LUKE & AG McARTHUR, CSIRO Division of Forest Research,1977) alludes to “Fire Whirlwinds” extensively on pages 99-100 (section on fire behaviour)
The first paragraph says as follows:
“Fire whirlwinds can vary from small flame whirls a few metres in height and diameter to giant fire tornadoes many hundred of metres high and encompassing an area of some hectares…….”
From their observations of statioary fires they conclude there are at least three main types of fire whirlwinds or tornadoes.
The first are relatively small flame whirls associated with high combustion rates, high rotary motion and relatively high ascentling (sic) velocities.
The second type appears to be similar to a tornado both in structure and method of formation and it is associated with strong convection activity and high combustion rates……….have very high ascending velocities, possibly in the order of 250kmh which are capable of lifting large logs and even trees and are associated with massive gaseous explosions high in the convection column which can be heard and felt at a distance of 3 – 4 kilometres. They may persist for for long periods (30 minutes or more) and move with the prevailing wind.
The third type of fire whirlwind is commonly called an afterburn whirlwind and is usually associated with the dying stages of a staionary burn. Diameter is generally less tha 20 metres.
In relation to type two (the tornado) there is a recorded instance of an a 15 hectare area in a stationary burn being left as absolutely bare soil after the tornado had dissipated. Peripheral inflow winds of these tornadoes may reach 100 kmh……….
So it has all happened before and more importantly it has been recorded as an event before so it is not a “World First”
I think some people may owe an apology to Mr Luke and Mr MacArthur who have written a great book, especially about the ACT where a bushfire very similar to the 2003 one occured on 4 -5 February 1952. Considerable damage was done to the Mt Stromlo observatory and 7000 acres were destroyed.

EvanJames 12:25 pm
20 Nov 12
#7

Big hot fires can create their own weather, as happened with the 2003 fire. People are on the record before the fire hit Canberra, discussing the foolishness of the fire services’ actions in letting the fires burn in the wilderness for two weeks, before the wind changed and those westerlies brought the now-powerful fires swooping onto towns and cities. The winds that day were bad, but the fire was strong and hot enough to then create its own wind… we saw the pine trees blasted all over the place.

If they’d got onto those fires when they were started by lightning two weeks before the fire hit, all of this would have been averted.

Thumper 1:06 pm
20 Nov 12
#8

Narration: But this fire was different. In the nearby suburb of Chapman, embers were carried on winds with the strength of a cyclone. Around Lincoln Close, a mini tornado brought down powerlines and uprooted trees. Roofing iron and tiles were ripped from houses

After we retreated (read ran away really fast before we were toasted) from Bullshead, we (SES) were tasked to render storm damage mitigation to the area on the Monday or Tuesday after the fires came through. Can’t quite remember which day as it was all a blur, could have been even later in the week.

It looked as if a tornado had ripped a 50 metres wide path straight through the suburb.

caf 1:34 pm
20 Nov 12
#9

The ABC published an article about this yesterday too, leaning heavily on a researcher from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

dungfungus 2:12 pm
20 Nov 12
#10

caf said :

The ABC published an article about this yesterday too, leaning heavily on a researcher from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

All Rick McRae has said has been researched and recorded before in the CSIRO publication Bushfires in Australia. This was pubished in 1971. His findings are not a “World First”. I would expect that anyone engaged in bushfire research would have a copy of that book.
McRae’s recomendations regarding improved building standards are of merit however prevention of bushfires would be a smarter objective. To this end, the ACT Government appears to have learned nothing from the 2003 fire so it is guranteed to happen again.

Mr Evil 8:41 pm
20 Nov 12
#11

Pity a fire-nado didn’t shoot up the behinds of a few dopey bastards in the ACT Government 10 days before the fire hit Canberra. Stanhope – you’re one of the ones I’m referring to……

I still laugh when I hear the comments about it being so hard to put lightning strikes out – when it turned out to be a damn side harder to fight a fast moving fire that was racing over the heads of firefighters on the outskirts of Canberra!

Thumper 8:15 am
21 Nov 12
#12

Interestingly, there was a claim on one of the TV news last night claiming that this fire season will be the worst in 30 years.

Have they forgotten so quickly?

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