Fire season in the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales got off to an early and ugly start in September 2019. Fueled by a long and deepening drought, more than 100 fires burned in forest and bush areas near the southeast coasts, including some subtropical rainforests and eucalyptus forests that do not often see fire.
The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center reported in late August that the 2019-20 fire season—which usually peaks in October near the coast and later in the spring and summer inland—has the potential to be quite active. Conditions all year have been quite warm and dry across much of the nation. With some areas already facing water shortages, and with strong winds fanning the flames, firefighting has been difficult. On September 15, 2019, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the natural-color image (above) of fires in the northeastern reaches of New South Wales.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported that on September 7 there were 46 fires burning, with 12 uncontained in the state. There has been some rain along the coast, but no rain has fallen where the fires are burning. Rain is forecast to continue, generating significant lightning with little moisture hitting the ground—conditions that could easily spark additional blazes. The latest confirmed losses tallied 26 homes destroyed, with 13 damaged. Most of the lost homes have been on the Long Gully Road Fire near Drake. Three hundred firefighters continue to work the blazes. It is estimated that the hard work has saved more than 600 homes.