Tasmanian Bushfires 2013

Fire burning near Dodges Ferry, a small town in south eastern Tasmania
Fire burning near Dodges Ferry, a small town in south eastern Tasmania

The 2012-2013 Tasmanian bushfire season was a significant event, there was a number of bushfires during the hot summer. The season started in November 2012 and continued through until late April 2013.

The most significant of these fires happened in early January 2013, it is this group of fires which is commonly referred to as the 2013 Tasmanian Bushfires.

On 3rd January the fire danger rating peaked at extreme and fire crews responded to approximately 50 fires. Most fires where extinguished quickly as the Tasmanian Fire Services and Forestry Tasmania had brought people back early from leave, set up state and regional operation centers and pre deployed crews and earth moving equipment.

4 fires developed into larger fires, one of the bushfires threatened the town of Richmond before being contained, another bushfire developed in the Derwent Valley, a third fire developed in the Southwestern National Park became known as the Lake Repulse and the 4th bushfire that developed became known as the Forcett Fire.

Dry lightning starting a bushfire
Dry lightning starting a bushfire

On the night of the 3rd of January, Tasmania experienced dry lightning (lightning strikes with no rain) which started more fires.

On the 4th of January Hobart reached a temperature of 41.8c, the highest recorded since records began in 1882.

Just before midday winds increased to approximately 100km/h and the Forcett Fire broke containment lines. The fire headed south and at 12.44 police closed Arthur Hwy. Two hours later the fire had travelled 15 km to the small town of Copping and by 3.25pm the bushfire had travelled another 10km to just north east of Dunalley.

The Forcett bushfire also cut the only access road for the communities on the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulars, with people being forced to take refuge on beaches and at the historic Port Arthur site. Over 2,000 people were evacuated by boat to Hobart, with a further 2,000 people taking refuge at the Nubeena community center.

The aftermath of the Forcett Bushfire that ravaged Dunalley

On the 5th of January it was reported that over 100 properties had been destroyed, 65 of these properties where in the town of Dunalley and included the police station, primary school and bakery. 15 homes were destroyed in Boomer Bay and 14 at Sommers Bay.

By the 6th of January it was reported that 40% of the structures at Connelly’s Marsh had also been destroyed and 20 homes at Murdunna.

By the time the fire had been contained it had travelled as far south as Eaglehawk Neck, threatened the community of Taranna and burnt through 24,000ha.

The only road that connected the peninsular to the rest of Tasmania was reopened on the 13th of January, however the road was reopened for a short period of time to allow some residents and supplies through on the 11th.

On the 14th of January a firefighter, who was deployed from Victoria to assist, died during back burning operations.

At the same time of the Forcett Fire another serious bushfire near Bicheno and Coles Bay destroyed 19 structures.

A Bushfire in Bicheno taken from the Tasman Highway
A Bushfire in Bicheno taken from the Tasman Highway

The third fire, which started at the same time as the Forsett Fire and became known as the Lake Repulse fire, burnt through 12,000ha and threatened the towns of Ellendale, Ouse, Hamilton, Karanji and Westerway. The fire burnt for two weeks before firefighters managed to properly contain it, luckily no homes were lost.

By the time the 2012 – 2013 Tasmanian Bushfire season was over, a total of 119,267ha were burnt compared to the previous bushfire seasons 8,457ha. The only other time such a large area of Tasmania was burnt was during the 1967 Tasmanian Bushfire of Black Tuesday.