On February 7, 2009, now known as Black Saturday, the people of Victoria, Australia were warned of a record setting heat wave with temperatures of up to 115℉, or 46℃. These extreme temperatures came at the wrong time, as the vegetation in the area had mostly dried up due to a long standing drought. Winds of up to 56 miles per hour (90 km/hr) only added fuel to these literal fires, and the combination of the dry vegetation, the extreme temperatures, and the intense winds led to 47 different major fires.
It was a human error that started the most deadly of the 47 fires in Victoria, as a faulty power line sparked a fire that would claim 119 lives. The location of these flames was only 37 miles north of Melbourne, one of the major cities in Australia, and the capital city of the state of Victoria. These flames were quickly blown over a nearby highway and into a forest igniting a large fire ball. Once this fireball was ignited it was too late for fireman to try and contain the flames and they too were forced to flee from the scene. This fire, renamed the Kilmore East fire, then spread quickly due to steep slopes and intense winds, racing through towns catching residents by surprise. While some residents tried to escape the flames in their cars, many were trapped in their homes. Unfortunately because of the fire’s size and temperature, even those that did manage to get on the road did not get very far as they were overtaken by the fire that reached 328 feet above the tree line and was hot enough to kill from 984 feet of radiant heat.
This map shows all of the land burned by wildfires in Victoria, Australia in the year 2009 alone. It is safe to say that the population was aware of what these fires were. It was the building codes and the warning systems- human errors which lead to so many deaths. However these human errors have been corrected as the Country Fire Authority’s website now requires better building codes, and offers information on ways to mitigate and prepare for fires as well as community programs.