Introduction During the final week of January 2009, Victoria endured one of its most severe and prolonged heatwaves. The temperature in Melbourne was above 43°C for three consecutive days for the first time since records had been kept. Saturday 7 February was forecast to reach temperatures in the low 40s, accompanied by strong winds, igniting many bushfires across Victoria. (Jose, 2010) This report will explain the social, environmental, and economic effects of the Black Saturday bushfire, as well as bushfires causes and how to stay safe during the bushfire season.
Location Victoria is a state in The South-East of Australia and is home to Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city. With an area of 227,594 km2 (87,874. 5 sq mi), it is geographically the smallest state on the Australian mainland. Victoria is flanked by the Bass Strait and Tasmania toward the south, New South Wales toward the north, the Tasman Sea toward the east, and South Australia toward the west. (Wikipedia, 2015) Causes On that day, more than 400 fires burned across Victoria, some had started on the day, others for weeks by different causes (Black Saturday bushfires, 2015).
The Black Saturday fires erupted in extremely dangerous condition – long drought, very low humidity, strong hot winds and soaring temperatures; creating ferocious and strong bushfires. (Jose, 2010) A bushfire needs a spark of flame to start; a spark can come from can come from a lightning strike, from machineries such as chainsaws or fallen power lines. A flame can come from people, accidentally (by leaving a campfire burning, throwing away a match) or on purpose (by arsonists).
This single spark or flame can ignite dried plants or materials and start a fire. Then it’s fanned by strong winds, and the fire is carried through grasslands and into forests. High winds carry burning embers that start more fires, setting more plant and materials ablaze. It continues until all the fuel (dried plants) is burnt out. (Jose, 2010) Social Effects (Impact on people) The impact of the bushfires on the people of the region can be completely devastating and astronomical.
It affects injury, loss of life, lasting health problems, business, communities and income. In the affected areas, many services that many citizens relied – power, gas, telephones and the internet had been damaged or destroyed (Jose, 2015). Due to the loss of power it consequently resulted in loss of communication – many people were not informed about the risks and dangers of bushfires and many were traumatised when it occurred (Bush Fires Australia, 2011).
These were the social impacts evident according to the Black Saturday bushfires, 2015: The death of 173 people The injury of 414 people The loss of over 2,100 homes that displaced 7,562 people The fires destroyed over 2,400 other structure Environmental Effects A bushfire is one that affects the environment in both good and bad ways. On one hand, the flame is beneficial to nature, for some plants utilize the conditions provided by the fire to germinate and while other plants that burn down have adapted to survive, as have the creatures that utilization them as a habitat.
Despite the fact that bushfires still can have consequences for the environment including loss of widely varied vegetation and changes the atmosphere such as increased levels of CO2 in the air, the creation of large volumes of smoke and ash and localised change in weather. Using the information about the 2009 Black Saturday bush fire, these were the environmental impacts evident: The RSPCA estimated that over one million animals died in the bushfires, and many of those who survived suffered from serious burns.
Catchment areas that supplied five of Melbourne’s major dams were affected by the bushfires, with ash and other material contaminating the water. In March 2009 it was discovered that smoke from the bushfires was in the atmosphere over Antarctica at very high altitudes. In total 1,100,000 acres were burnt across Victoria. Economic Effects Bushfires have a huge impact on our economy, as they usually come with destruction of property and business. With homes, livestock, crops, offices, shopping centres and other infrastructure were burnt down during the course of a bushfire.
This leaves the families affected with no source of income and a house or business to rebuild and is clearly a very costly feat, especially if these families are not insured. Using the information about the 2009 Black Saturday bush fire, these were the economic impacts evident: The fires destroyed over 2,100houses and more than 2, 400 other structures. The agricultural losses were omitted from the total cost and the Victorian Department of Primary Industries, estimated that 11 800 head of livestock, 62 000 hectares of grazing pasture and 32 000 tonnes of hay and silage were lost in the fires.
The Bushfires Royal Commission estimated that the cost of the fires would total $4. 4 billion AUD. In total, 351 million was donated to the bushfire relief fund. The Insurance Council of Australia reported that as of August 2010, $1. 2 billion AUD had been made in insurance claims. 84% of these were for property, with the remaining 16% being for vehicles. Fire Warnings During the fire season, the Bureau of Meteorology forecasts danger ratings every day. These ratings are transferred onto the fire danger categories that are used to warn people.
On days of extreme fire danger, bushfires are constantly monitored. Warning are issued on the television, radio, and the fire authority website. The Standard Emergency Warning Signal is used to warn people that a fire warning is about to be broadcast. On days of high fire danger, the safest option for people who live in a life threatened area should leave rather than stay and defend their properties. Children, the elderly and people that are sick or disabled should leave earlier on days of high fire danger. (Jose, 2010)
In 2009, the Australian Government revised the fire danger categories that are used to warn people. Previously the highest level was ‘Extreme’. After the Black Saturday Bushfires a higher category was introduced – ‘Code Red/Catastrophic’, this means if a fire starts, firefighters will not be able to control the blaze. Since 113 people died in their homes on Black Saturday, many homes could not be defended against a major bushfire, and it recommended that in future fires residents evacuate their homes rather than try to save them. (Jose, 2010)
Conclusion The emotional scars from Black Saturday continued to resonate; many affected families refused to rebuild their homes, saying that the risk of another fire was too great. The destruction of property and business leaves the families affected with no source of income to sustain their lives. With the loss of 1,100,000 acres across Victoria many creatures were left with our a habitat, leaving them homeless. The tragedy reminded Australians that being prepared and constantly listening and checking the forecast about the deadly threat of bushfire, saves lives, business and homes.