Black Saturday bushfires

Black Saturday bushfires
February 7 Victoria Bushfires - MODIS Aqua.jpg
MODIS Aqua satellite image of smoke plumes and a pyrocumulus cloud northeast of Melbourne during the morning of 7 February 2009.
LocationVictoria, Australia
Statistics
Date(s)7 February – 14 March 2009
Burned area450,000 hectares (1,100,000 acres)[1]
CauseVarious confirmed sources including:
Power lines[2]
Arson[3]
Lightning[4]
Machinery[5]
Land useUrban/Rural Fringe Areas, Farmland, and Forest Reserves/National Parks
Buildings
destroyed
3,500+ (2,029 houses)
Fatalities180[6][7]
Non-fatal injuries414[8]

The Black Saturday bushfires[9] were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around Saturday, 7 February 2009 and were Australia's all-time worst bushfire disasters. The fires occurred during extreme bushfire-weather conditions and resulted in Australia's highest ever loss of life from a bushfire;[10] 180 people died[6][7] and 414 were injured as a result of the fires.

As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on 7 February. Following the events of 7 February 2009 and its aftermath, that day has become widely referred to in Australia as Black Saturday.

Background

Temperature graph for Melbourne during the peak of the heatwave

A week before the fires, an exceptional heatwave affected southeastern Australia. From 28–30 January, Melbourne broke records by sweltering through three consecutive days above 43 °C (109 °F), with the temperature peaking at 45.1 °C (113.2 °F) on 30 January, the third hottest day in the city's history.

The wave of heat was caused by a slow moving high-pressure system that settled over the Tasman Sea, with a combination of an intense tropical low located off the North West Australian coast and a monsoon trough over northern Australia, which produced ideal conditions for hot tropical air to be directed down over southeastern Australia.[11]

The February fires commenced on a day when several localities across the state, including Melbourne, recorded their highest temperatures since records began in 1859.[12] On 6 February 2009—the day before the fires started—the Premier of Victoria John Brumby issued a warning about the extreme weather conditions expected on 7 February: "It's just as bad a day as you can imagine and on top of that the state is just tinder-dry. People need to exercise real common sense tomorrow".[13] The Premier went on to state that it was expected to be the "worst day [of fires conditions] in the history of the state".[13]

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