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.
Duckett’s Grove, a great house in County Carlow, Ireland, was destroyed by fire on the 20th of April, 1933.
Built around 1830 for the Duckett family, they lived at the house until 1916, when a family dispute between the only remaining family members – none of them male (males would usually inherit) – led to the house’s management being taken over by locals.
By 1930 the house was being used by the Irish Republican Army, and when they left the property it was still in good condition.
In 1933, a week after local farmers – who had been managing the estate – reported a minor fire at the house, Duckett’s Grove burnt in earnest over the course of a night.
On the 7th of February, 1967, Tasmania’s deadliest fire disaster occurred in the middle of a summer heatwave.
Destruction near the state’s capital city, Hobart. X
In what would come to be known as the Black Tuesday fires, 62 people were killed and over 900 were injured. Thousands of homes and animals were lost, and the damage was estimated to be around $40 000 000 at the time ($100 000 000 in today’s money).
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.
The fire tore through the Summerland leisure centre, where no immediate attempt was made to evacuate, and the fire department was not called until twenty minutes after the blaze began. When panic broke out, people trapped inside found that the fire doors were locked.
The Peshtigo Fire occurred on the 8th of October, 1871 in and around Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It was the deadliest fire in US history.
Because a number of fires struck the United States on the same day that year this one is largely forgotten, overshadowed by the far more famous – but not as deadly – Great Chicago Fire.
The Peshtigo fire took at least 1500 lives, but may have taken as many as 2500. It is hard to determine an exact number, as local records were destroyed in the disaster.
Peshtigo shortly before the fire.
As with many fires around that time – and just as it is today – the cause was a combination of drought, hot temperatures and strong winds, joining to create a firestorm. However there is little specific detail available, and what information there is available is largely from journal entries of the time.