urronestly I had no idea what I was doing when it came time to picking Case Studies. I remember Dr. Gallagher saying we should pick something we were interested in either by disaster or area, so I started googling disasters in Florida since I liked the area. Somehow I got on the track of fires and the name Bugaboo Scrub Fire jumped out at me. I had no idea what it was about, but the name looked cool so I signed up for it knowing absolutely nothing. I was very surprised as I started to research the fire that I actually became quite interested in it.
2007 went down as one of the most extremes fire seasons in recent memory. Fires were popping up all over the south in the summer and the Bugaboo Scrub Fire was the largest yet in combined Georgia and Florida history. Immediately preceding the Bugaboo Scrub Fire were the Sweat Farm Road Fire and the Big Turnaround Fire. These two events started a month before the Bugaboo Scrub Fire and when the three joined together in May 2007, they created a gargantuan force known as the Georgia Bay Complex.
What caused the fire? Specifically, a strike of lighting on May 5, 2007 on Bugaboo Island in the Okefenokee Swamp. What contributed to turning it into the largest fire in over 75 years? There were a few causes that all tied in together to create this perfect storm, or fire per say. The area was suffering from an extreme drought and locals knew for over a year that a massive fire was inevitable with the drought levels. Another factor was Subtropical Storm Andrea. Scientists were hopeful that the hurricane would bring rain to help cool the area, but unfortunately that did not happen. Subtropical Storm Andrea changed course and the Okefenokee Swamp fell out of range of the rains and into range of strong winds that picked up and carried the fires across the states. By May 16, 2007 over 120,000 acres were set ablaze. The last contributing factor was a lack of perscribed burns. The fire teams repeatedly stated that they knew a fire was inevitable that summer, but they did not change their habits in the number of controlled fires they lit to clear out flammable underbrush or start the process sooner.
All of this combined to create a fire that took almost 6 months to fully extinguish and over $3.5 billion in costs and damages. Luckily, the fire mitigation teams were able to protect local towns and no lives were lost in the process. It also forced the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center to release a comprehensive High Reliability Organizing (HRO) Implementation report on how to effectively work with the many fire and rescue services to educate the mitigation teams for the future.
Satellite picture from NASA of the Bugaboo Scrub Fire and the smoke it produced.
Sydney, Australia saw its average rainfall for the entirety of February in a single hour this year. Brisbane was flooded this March by Cyclone Debbie. This month, Melbourne’s average monthly rainfall fell in a single day. As the world’s climate continues to change, we can expect to see more of these “extreme weather events.”
According to “Intense Rainfall and Flooding: The Influence of Climate Change” by the Climate Council, “Bushfires, drought, heatwaves, storms, and extreme wind will be expected to become more frequent.” Australia’s heatwaves are already lasting longer and reaching hotter temperature highs and the Center of Excellence for Climate System Science’s research shows that Sydney’s summer heatwaves are already starting 19 days earlier. An intense heatwave in Victoria and Southern Australia during 2009 killed 432 people, 23 people drowned in the Queensland floods of 2011, and another 8 people died after a city-wide “asthma event” which was triggered by a freak thunderstorm during November of 2016 in Melbourne. In fact, heat extremes for 2030 are already being predicted since the number of heatwave days have a;ready doubled over the last 30 years. “The hottest day of their heat wave is 4.5 degrees hotter than it used to be,” says Amanda McKenzie, the CEO of the Climate Council.
I think it’s interesting that this article concludes with the statement – “We need to make sure we have a clear idea about what the changing climate will mean, and that we’re ensuring that our infrastructure is prepared, our emergency services are prepared, and communities are prepared too.” We’ve talked so much in class about how government can protect its people from natural hazards so I’m eager to see what mitigation will be put into place to protect the region. I also want to see how Australia’s government will react to the incoming of extreme weather events as its climate continues to change, and how the people can prepare for such event.
Strong winds have made it difficult for firefighters to get Arizona’s Sawmill wildfire under control. Residents of the small town Sonoita have been ordered to evacuate as the fire burns through the Santa Rita Mountains. “As we were evacuating, the fire jumped the road right as my family was crossing,” Green Valley Fire District Chief Chuck Wunder told KGUN.
About 300 fire personnel are battling the fire, which was 7 percent contained as of yesterday afternoon; those said 300 includes five hotshot crews, 20 fire engines, five air tankers and three helicopters. Winds were gusting at up to 45 mph with low humidity and another round of strong winds is expected with a new storm on Friday, although no rain is expected.
The Green Valley area has seen only about 25% of its average precipitation since February 1st and along with the low humidity have created the perfect the “perfect” conditions for a wildfire. “It only takes a cigarette flicked out of a moving vehicle” to start a fire in such weather, says a Green Valley Fire Department spokesperson. (Another great reason not to smoke cigarettes!)
On April 6th a bolt of lightning struck and started a blaze inside the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, near the Florida-Georgia state line. That, in addition to the strong winds over this past weekend have spread the fires further into the park, to the swamps that have been dried out by droughts . This spread has increased the fire’s footprint by 76% from Friday through today, making the total size of the fire now at 70 square miles. In total, the fire has not burned a significant portion of the Okefenokee Refuge, as its square milage comes to 635 miles, but the flames have been going for 3 weeks straight.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages the refuge and has decided to let the fire burn its course within the boundries of the refuge. In the meantime, firefighters are using bulldozers to enforce fire perimeters along the refuges’ borders to prevent any spread onto private land. Despite these preperations, there is no immenent threat to humans or private property at this time.
The firefighters who are currently managing the blaze are prepared for a long haul, and expect this to go for several months. Commanders have estimated that the fire will fail to extinguish completley, or be totally contained until around November. So far, there has been no real threat to the population, and officials don’t expect there to be any real harm. The only people at risk reside in Fargo, a tiny town boasting 320 residents on the refuge’s western edge. They, along with the residents of a rural stretch of Charlton County along the eastern edge of the refuge, have been warned to prepare in the case that evacuations become necessary.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has come to the aid of Florida at the request of Governor Rick Scott since Forest Service crews started battling 32+ wildfires across the state. Three wildfires have been particularly damaging so far. Authorities evacuated about 800 homes during Polk County’s Red Grange wildfire, about 2,000 homes during Lee County’s Ann Avenue wildfire and about 6,000 homes during Collier County’s Frangipani wildfire. Collier County has already been reported on by a classmate, but I wanted to highlight that fires are rampant in Florida this month. The map below details the locations of wildfires currently burning.
A map detailing the location of wildfires being fought by Forest service crews across the state of Florida.
A wildfire in Orange City, Florida next to the I-4 caused some lane closures and a huge traffic jam. There are actually three fires which are being fought by multiple fire units from surrounding areas, which were first reported at 1:43 pm. The fire is in the westbound lane causing traffic to be backed up for miles, with eastbound traffic also being affected. Officials have claimed that 350 acres have already been blackened the flames. While the fire chief from Orange City has stated that the fires have been contained, the winds have shifted. Meanwhile the Florida Traffic Patrol has released a warning saying that the fire, wind and smoke conditions are subject to sudden change which could lead to more closures and worsening traffic. The Florida Traffic Patrol advises that the roads in these areas should be avoided.
It is not uncommon for Florida to have wildfires, but the fact that this one was right next to what sounds like a major highway sounds unreal to me, as someone from Virginia. It is also frightening to think that this fire was so close to so many people who really had no way to escape or anywhere to go. What I have the hardest time imagining is driving on a highway and turning to my left to see a massive fire just roaring on the side of the road. The good news is that it sounds as though the fires are being contained, the bad news is that winds are shifting and that means the fire is going to get more unpredictable. However this report was from a couple of hours ago and nothing new has been reported or written so I am guessing that the situation is much the same as it was when this report was written. I find it interesting that this report seems to be more about the traffic jam, and closed lanes than the actual fire.
On Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the state of Florida. According to the Agricultural Commission, this has been the most active wildfire season in Florida since 2011. Since February, 70,000 acres have been scorched due to at least 100 separate fires burning across the state. So far, 19 homes have been lost. In the late spring and winter months, Florida faces its dry season. According to meteorologist Chris Dolce, about 42% of Florida is experiencing drought conditions. With no major rain expected in the foreseeable future, Florida’s fires will continue to rage, with only human efforts to corral them.
300 acres of land were burned in Leake County and Choctaw county in Mississippi the evening of March 23. No structures were threatened. It appears that these fires are the ones that we talked about in class that are purposely started to renew the grass in the area. Bulldozer crews created a fire line in order to contain the wildfire and firefighters remained on the scene in order to make sure it stayed where it was supposed to. Smoke is expected to continue as the fires burn out.
The wildfire currently in Boulder, Colorado originated in an area used by hikers and was possibly a human-caused fire. “We were already going to be under a red flag warning today anyway,” she said. “It looks like it’s going to be very hot and very dry, and potential winds up to 20 mph. Which is not good.” Gabi Boerkircher, a spokeswoman for the Boulder Office of Emergency Management. Evacuations have been done and areas have been told to stay alert and prepare to evacuate. Roughly 62 acres have been burned with only 20% of the fire contained. As of last reported, aircraft, tankers and firefighters are working together to fight the wildfire. Not only is the fire itself a risk, but according to Boulder OEM, “warns that recreation around the city of Boulder is not advised because of air quality concerns.”
A fire in New South Wales that took place in February has been reported to have destroyed approximately 15 homes. The fire took place in Carwoola, east of Queanbeyan.
The fire occurred on a hot and windy day and ended up blackening more than 2500 hectares. Many roads were affected by this blaze and for the safety of the people, many roads were shut down and blocked.
The result of the fire ended in the injury of two firefighters and the destruction of fifteen homes. The Rural Fire Service reported that 100 new fires began after a band of electrical storms came across New South Wales and that it had an even greater impact in Sydney.