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23 April 2024 1:49 pm

Australian Bush Fire History

Bushfires have accounted for over 800 deaths in Australia since 1851 and the total accumulated cost is estimated at $1.6 billion. In terms of monetary cost however, they rate behind the damage caused by drought, severe storms, hail, and cyclones perhaps because they most commonly occur outside highly populated urban areas.

Australia’s worst ever recorded natural disaster was a Bushfire, the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009, where 173 people lost their lives.

Some of the most severe Australian bushfires, in chronological order, (source Wikipedia) have included:

Fire Location Area burned
1 ha ≈ 2.5 acres
Date Human Deaths Properties damaged
Black Thursday bushfires Victoria, Australia ≈ 5 million hectares (ha) 6 February 1851 about 12 1 million sheep; thousands of cattle
Red Tuesday bushfires Victoria 260,000 ha 1 February 1898 12 2,000 buildings
1926 bushfires Victoria   February – March 1926 60 1000
Black Friday bushfires Victoria 2 million ha December 1938 – January 1939, peaking 13 January 1939 71 3,700
1944 Bushfires Victoria 1 million ha estimated 14 January – 14 February 1944 15–20 more than 500 houses
1951-2 Bushfires Victoria   Summer 1951–52 at least 10  
Black Sunday Bushfires South Australia   2 January 1955 2  
1961 Western Australian bushfires Western Australia 1,800,000 ha January–March 1961 0 160 homes
1962 bushfires Victoria   14–16 January 1962 32 450 houses
Southern Highlands bushfires New South Wales   5–14 March 1965 3 59 homes
Tasmanian “Black Tuesday” bushfires Tasmania Approximately 264,000 ha 7 February 1967 62 1,293 homes
Dandenong Ranges Bushfire Victoria 1,920 ha 19 February 1968   53 homes 10 other buildings
1969 bushfires Victoria   8 January 1969 23 230 houses
Western Districts Bushfires Victoria 103,000 ha 12 February 1977 4 116 houses, 340 Buildings
1978 Western Australian Bushfires Western Australia 114,000 ha 4 April 1978 2 6 buildings (drop in wind in early evening is said to have saved the towns of DonnybrookBoyup BrookManjimup, and Bridgetown.)
1979 Sydney bushfires Sydney, and Region NSW   December 1979 5 28 homes destroyed, 20 homes damaged
1980 Waterfall bushfire Waterfall, NSW >1 million ha 3 November 1980 5 firefighters 14 homes
Ash Wednesday bushfires South Australia and Victoria 418,000 ha 16 February 1983 75 about 2,400 houses
Central Victoria Bushfires Victoria 50,800 ha 14 January 1985 3 180+ houses
Sydney Hills District and Central Coast Bushfires New South Wales   16 October 1991 2 14 houses
1994 Eastern seaboard fires New South Wales ≈400,000 ha 27 December 1993 – 16 January 1994 4 225 homes
Wooroloo Bushfire Western Australia 10,500 ha 8 January 1997 0 16 homes
Dandenongs bushfire Victoria 400 21 January 1997 3 41 homes
Lithgow bushfire New South Wales   2 December 1997 2  
Perth and SW Region bushfires Western Australia 23,000 ha 2 December 1997 2 (21 injuries) 1 home lost
Linton bushfire Victoria   2 December 1998 5  
Black Christmas New South Wales 300,000 ha 25 December 2001 – 2002 0 121 homes
2003 Canberra bushfires Canberra,Australian Capital Territory 160,000 ha 18–22 January 2003 4 almost 500 homes
2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires Victoria over 1.3 million ha 8 January – 8 March 2003 3 41 homes
Tenterden Western Australia   December 2003 2 (2,110,000 ha of forest burnt during the 2002–2003 bushfire season in the S/W of WA)
Eyre Peninsula bushfire South Australia 145,000 ha 10–12 January 2005 9 93 homes
2006 Central Coast bushfire Central Coast, New South Wales   New Years Day, 2006    
Jail Break Inn Fire Junee, New South Wales 30,000 ha New Years Day 2006 0 Livestock losses estimated to be over 20,000. Seven homes, sevenheaders and four shearing sheds destroyed. 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) of fencing damaged.
2005 Victorian bushfires Victoria 160,000 ha December 2005 – January 2006 4 57 houses, 359 farm buildings, 65,000 stock losses, fires occurred in the StawellMoondarraAnakieYea, and Kinglake regions
2006 Grampians Bushfire Victoria 184,000 January 2006 2 A total of 57 houses, more than 350 other buildings were destroyed.
Pulletop bushfire Wagga Wagga, New South Wales 9,000 6 February 2006 0 2,500 sheep and 6 cattle killed, 3 vehicles and 2 hay sheds destroyed as well as 50 km of fencing.
2006–07 Eastern Victoria Great Divide bushfires Victoria 1,200,000 – 1,300,000 ha 1 December 2006 – 6 February 2007 1 51 homes
Dwellingup bushfire Western Australia 12,000 ha 4 February 2007 0 16
Kangaroo Island Bushfires South Australia 95,000 ha 6–14 December 2007 1  
Boorabbin National Park Western Australia 40,000 ha 30 December 2007 3 Powerlines and Great Eastern Highway, forced to close for 2 weeks
Black Saturday bushfires Victoria 450,000+ ha 7 February 2009 –14 March 2009 173 2,029+ houses, 2,000 other structures
Toodyay Bushfire Western Australia 3,000+ ha 29 December 2009 0 38
Lake Clifton Bushfire Western Australia 2,000+ ha 11 January 2011 0 10 homes destroyed
Roleystone Kelmscott Bushfire Western Australia 1,500+ ha 6–8 February 2011 0 72 homes destroyed, 32 damaged, Buckingham Bridge on Brookton Highway collapsed and closed for 3 weeks whilst a temporary bridge was constructed and opened a month after the fires
Margaret River Bushfire Western Australia 4,000 ha 24 November 2011 0 34 homes destroyed including the historic Wallcliffe House
Tasmanian Bushfires Tasmania 20,000+ ha 4 January 2013 1 At least 170 buildings
Warrumbungle Bushfire New South Wales 54,000 ha 18 January 2013 0 At least 53 homes, 118 sheds, agricultural machinery and livestock. Infrastructure destroyed at Siding Spring Observatory.
2013 New South Wales bushfires New South Wales 100,000+ ha 16 October – November 2013 2 As of 19 October 2013 at least 248 buildings destroyed statewide (inc. 208 dwellings), another 109 damaged in SpringwoodWinmalee andYellow Rock

Major fires also occurred in the HunterCentral CoastMacarthur andPort Stephens regions causing significant damage.

2014 Parkerville bushfire Western Australia 386 ha 12 January 2014 1 56 Homes
2014 Grampians Bushfire Victoria 51800 ha 17 January 2014 1 Fire so intense it created a 12 km-wide convection column, generating its own weather and lightning strikes

Bushfires have accounted for over 800 deaths in Australia since 1851 and the total accumulated cost is estimated at $1.6 billion. In terms of monetary cost however, they rate behind the damage caused by drought, severe storms, hail, and cyclones perhaps because they most commonly occur outside highly populated urban areas.

Australia’s worst ever recorded natural disaster was a Bushfire, the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009, where 173 people lost their lives.

Some of the most severe Australian bushfires, in chronological order, (source Wikipedia) have included:

Fire Location Area burned
1 ha ≈ 2.5 acres
Date Human Deaths Properties damaged
Black Thursday bushfires Victoria, Australia ≈ 5 million hectares (ha) 6 February 1851 about 12 1 million sheep; thousands of cattle
Red Tuesday bushfires Victoria 260,000 ha 1 February 1898 12 2,000 buildings
1926 bushfires Victoria   February – March 1926 60 1000
Black Friday bushfires Victoria 2 million ha December 1938 – January 1939, peaking 13 January 1939 71 3,700
1944 Bushfires Victoria 1 million ha estimated 14 January – 14 February 1944 15–20 more than 500 houses
1951-2 Bushfires Victoria   Summer 1951–52 at least 10  
Black Sunday Bushfires South Australia   2 January 1955 2  
1961 Western Australian bushfires Western Australia 1,800,000 ha January–March 1961 0 160 homes
1962 bushfires Victoria   14–16 January 1962 32 450 houses
Southern Highlands bushfires New South Wales   5–14 March 1965 3 59 homes
Tasmanian “Black Tuesday” bushfires Tasmania Approximately 264,000 ha 7 February 1967 62 1,293 homes
Dandenong Ranges Bushfire Victoria 1,920 ha 19 February 1968   53 homes 10 other buildings
1969 bushfires Victoria   8 January 1969 23 230 houses
Western Districts Bushfires Victoria 103,000 ha 12 February 1977 4 116 houses, 340 Buildings
1978 Western Australian Bushfires Western Australia 114,000 ha 4 April 1978 2 6 buildings (drop in wind in early evening is said to have saved the towns of DonnybrookBoyup BrookManjimup, and Bridgetown.)
1979 Sydney bushfires Sydney, and Region NSW   December 1979 5 28 homes destroyed, 20 homes damaged
1980 Waterfall bushfire Waterfall, NSW >1 million ha 3 November 1980 5 firefighters 14 homes
Ash Wednesday bushfires South Australia and Victoria 418,000 ha 16 February 1983 75 about 2,400 houses
Central Victoria Bushfires Victoria 50,800 ha 14 January 1985 3 180+ houses
Sydney Hills District and Central Coast Bushfires New South Wales   16 October 1991 2 14 houses
1994 Eastern seaboard fires New South Wales ≈400,000 ha 27 December 1993 – 16 January 1994 4 225 homes
Wooroloo Bushfire Western Australia 10,500 ha 8 January 1997 0 16 homes
Dandenongs bushfire Victoria 400 21 January 1997 3 41 homes
Lithgow bushfire New South Wales   2 December 1997 2  
Perth and SW Region bushfires Western Australia 23,000 ha 2 December 1997 2 (21 injuries) 1 home lost
Linton bushfire Victoria   2 December 1998 5  
Black Christmas New South Wales 300,000 ha 25 December 2001 – 2002 0 121 homes
2003 Canberra bushfires Canberra,Australian Capital Territory 160,000 ha 18–22 January 2003 4 almost 500 homes
2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires Victoria over 1.3 million ha 8 January – 8 March 2003 3 41 homes
Tenterden Western Australia   December 2003 2 (2,110,000 ha of forest burnt during the 2002–2003 bushfire season in the S/W of WA)
Eyre Peninsula bushfire South Australia 145,000 ha 10–12 January 2005 9 93 homes
2006 Central Coast bushfire Central Coast, New South Wales   New Years Day, 2006    
Jail Break Inn Fire Junee, New South Wales 30,000 ha New Years Day 2006 0 Livestock losses estimated to be over 20,000. Seven homes, sevenheaders and four shearing sheds destroyed. 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) of fencing damaged.
2005 Victorian bushfires Victoria 160,000 ha December 2005 – January 2006 4 57 houses, 359 farm buildings, 65,000 stock losses, fires occurred in the StawellMoondarraAnakieYea, and Kinglake regions
2006 Grampians Bushfire Victoria 184,000 January 2006 2 A total of 57 houses, more than 350 other buildings were destroyed.
Pulletop bushfire Wagga Wagga, New South Wales 9,000 6 February 2006 0 2,500 sheep and 6 cattle killed, 3 vehicles and 2 hay sheds destroyed as well as 50 km of fencing.
2006–07 Eastern Victoria Great Divide bushfires Victoria 1,200,000 – 1,300,000 ha 1 December 2006 – 6 February 2007 1 51 homes
Dwellingup bushfire Western Australia 12,000 ha 4 February 2007 0 16
Kangaroo Island Bushfires South Australia 95,000 ha 6–14 December 2007 1  
Boorabbin National Park Western Australia 40,000 ha 30 December 2007 3 Powerlines and Great Eastern Highway, forced to close for 2 weeks
Black Saturday bushfires Victoria 450,000+ ha 7 February 2009 –14 March 2009 173 2,029+ houses, 2,000 other structures
Toodyay Bushfire Western Australia 3,000+ ha 29 December 2009 0 38
Lake Clifton Bushfire Western Australia 2,000+ ha 11 January 2011 0 10 homes destroyed
Roleystone Kelmscott Bushfire Western Australia 1,500+ ha 6–8 February 2011 0 72 homes destroyed, 32 damaged, Buckingham Bridge on Brookton Highway collapsed and closed for 3 weeks whilst a temporary bridge was constructed and opened a month after the fires
Margaret River Bushfire Western Australia 4,000 ha 24 November 2011 0 34 homes destroyed including the historic Wallcliffe House
Tasmanian Bushfires Tasmania 20,000+ ha 4 January 2013 1 At least 170 buildings
Warrumbungle Bushfire New South Wales 54,000 ha 18 January 2013 0 At least 53 homes, 118 sheds, agricultural machinery and livestock. Infrastructure destroyed at Siding Spring Observatory.
2013 New South Wales bushfires New South Wales 100,000+ ha 16 October – November 2013 2 As of 19 October 2013 at least 248 buildings destroyed statewide (inc. 208 dwellings), another 109 damaged in SpringwoodWinmalee andYellow Rock

Major fires also occurred in the HunterCentral CoastMacarthur andPort Stephens regions causing significant damage.

2014 Parkerville bushfire Western Australia 386 ha 12 January 2014 1 56 Homes
2014 Grampians Bushfire Victoria 51800 ha 17 January 2014 1 Fire so intense it created a 12 km-wide convection column, generating its own weather and lightning strikes