Fifteen Years

I’ve mentioned this disaster before, but today is the fifteenth anniversary of the freakish firestorm that tore through Canberra, Australia’s capital city. Unlike other bushfires, this one burnt into the city itself, claiming lives and destroying many hundreds of buildings.

Watch from 1:08 in to see what the suburban streets looked like that afternoon.

The images below (from Wikimedia Commons) are from before the sky turned blacker than night, and then bright red. All the photos are of places I was on that day. When everything went black, it started raining embers, and the flames started rolling down the mountains that surround us, things got really scary in this part of town. (What looks like lights in the first picture is all fire.)

People I know lost everything, but we got lucky and the firebombing helicopters were just over us and stopped it before it jumped the road to our side.

2003_Canberra_Firestorm-Woden 2003 Canberra Firestorm. 18th January 2003 Canberra_hills-18-01-2003

2003_Canberra_Firestorm-Woden Photo of Woden Town Centre during the height of the 2003 Canberra Firestorm. 18th January 2003

2003_Canberra_Firestorm- 2003 Canberra Firestorm. 18th January 2003 Canberra_hills-18-01-2003 2003CanberraBushfires.

On this day: a natural disaster in Canberra

Raw news footage of the firestorm that hit Canberra, Australia’s capital city, on the 18th of January, 2003. The disaster claimed lives, burnt nearly 70% of the Australian Capital Territory, destroyed over 500 houses, and burnt internationally significant institutions such as the Mount Stromlo Observatory to the ground.

On this day: the Canberra Firestorm

Firestorm in Canberra, Australia. 18th January 2003.

On the 18th of January 2003, fires broke containment lines in New South Wales and jumped the border into the Australian Capital Territory. Because of communication issues with the NSW authorities, residents of Canberra had little or no warning the fire was coming.

Canberra Firestorm 18th January 2003

The ACT border is marked in black. Watch the full graphic of the fire’s approach HERE.

With temperatures of 40°C and winds of 60 kilometres an hour, the fire was impossible to stop.

After burning about 70% of the territory’s bushland, farmland and forests, the fire hit the suburbs of Australia’s capital city, Canberra, burning well over 500 homes and killing four people. Also destroyed was the Mount Stromlo Observatory.



The first fire tornado in history was recorded during the storm, and it remains the only one known to have ever exceeded F3 wind speeds.