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.
1612 structures were destroyed, including fourteen hotels, eight churches, six banks, and a number of boats. The heat of the flames was so great that some buildings were said to have burst into flames before the fire reached them.
Cities all over the world donated money to the rebuilding effort, including Chicago, a city that had suffered a massive fire less than six years before.
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 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.
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.