Townsville’s 2019 fire season

Winter is traditionally followed by Spring but not here, and not in the era of climate change. Last week was Winter; this week is the Fire Season.

Perhaps that is a little melodramatic, but it’s justified by the conditions we have experienced recently. The fire season is already well under way, as it usually is by this time of year, and we have had several very smoky days in town but today was exceptional. Late this morning I could hardly see Mount Stuart from the Rising Sun intersection on Charters Towers Rd, so I visited Castle Hill with my camera to see what I could see from there. It wasn’t pretty.

View over Kissing Point to Magnetic Island
Looking over Kissing Point to Magnetic Island

View over the Town Common
Looking over the Town Common
View over Mt Louisa to Hervey's Range
Looking over Mt Louisa to Hervey’s Range
view of Mt Stuart
Mt Stuart with Charters Towers Rd in foreground
View over Ross River to Stuart and Mt Elliott
Looking over Ross River to Stuart and Mt Elliott

I have arranged these in sequence from North to West to South-east and added notes which will be visible as the images are viewed in the light-box.

A controlled burn on Magnetic Island seems excessive and some are wondering whether it’s still under control. Meanwhile, there are big grass fires on Hervey’s Range and in the direction of Oak Valley. The Town Common isn’t burning now, although scars of several recent fires are visible in that photo; some are also apparent in the middle distance of the Stuart shot.

We sincerely hope that today’s smoke still looks exceptional by the time the rains come, in November or later.


Saturday 7.9.19

I was told by locals that the Hervey’s Range fire was deliberately lit on Friday 6th as a fuel-reduction burn, and this was confirmed on the RFS Permit to Burn page.

Sunday 8.9.19

Air quality today, Sunday, is worse than on Friday, with a thick haze reducing visibility to a couple of kilometres, but it seems to be more dust (blowing up from SE Qld) than smoke. The DES Air Quality page rates our air as “very poor” as I write.

The RFS bushfire information page is showing the fires at Toonpan (that’s the one I called “Oak Valley” on Friday), Hervey’s Range and Magnetic Island, and a couple more in the Upper Ross area.

Reports from people close to the Magnetic Island fire all confirm that it is being closely controlled.

Tuesday 10.9.19

Air quality in town was much better by Monday; the dust had almost gone and the smoke had also diminished.

I have been told the Hervey’s Range fire started on or near the Army land at High Range (Sharp’s Rd) on the Friday and was a threat late on Saturday 7.9.19 but was under control by Monday 9.9.19

I was on the Strand very early on Tuesday; the sunrise was spectacular, thanks to the smoke from Magnetic Island.

Predawn sky, Cleveland Bay
Predawn sky over Cleveland Bay
sunrise over the jetty
The fishing jetty on the Strand
Smoke over Magnetic Island
Smoke over Magnetic Island just after sunrise


4 thoughts on “Townsville’s 2019 fire season”


    Queensland Fire and Emergency Services’ predictive services inspector, Andrew Sturgess, said the state had never before seen such serious bushfire conditions, so early in spring.
    “So this is an omen, if you will, a warning of the fire season that we are likely to see in south-eastern parts of the state where most of the population is,” he said.
    The acting premier, Jackie Trad, said climate change meant the state was facing a new era of fire risks.
    “There is no doubt that with an increasing temperature with climate change, then what the scientists tell us is that events such as these will be more frequent and they will be much more ferocious,” she told reporters.

    Gold Coast hinterland fire prompts question — can rainforests burn?

    Acting Queensland Premier Jackie Trad says the Gold Coast hinterland fire that swept through the area over the weekend included areas of rainforest — a highly unusual event, but one that appears to be occurring more frequently in recent times.
    University of Queensland Associate Professor Rod Fenshaw said it was “a bit premature to know to what extent the rainforest has burnt” but similar fires occurred in Central Queensland just last year.
    “You have to wonder about the effects of global climate change on our climate when it is less than a year [since] we had those really exceptional fires in Central Queensland,” he said.
    “You might have been able to excuse them as a one-off event last year, but here we are less than a year later and we have another set of fires in Queensland.

  2. An explicit linkage between the early, severe, bushfire seasons and climate change:

    We’re often told the Australian bushfire season is starting earlier. This year it began in September on the eastern seaboard.
    Last year and in 2013, significant spring fires hit NSW and in 2015 they affected much of the nation’s southeast.
    But what lies behind this phenomenon?
    We examined seasonal fire weather history for 44 years at 39 weather stations to find the precise answer.
    It confirms the strength of the relationship between climate drivers such as El Nino, climate change, and the Australian bushfire season.

    The research they mentioned is here: but it’s quite technical.

  3. This year we’ve had a grand (not!) total of 3.5 mm of rain in the ten weeks from mid-July to the end of September. The last week or so has been very windy and there are fires all around Townsville. Yesterday afternoon I visited Castle Hill again to look at them, and I could hardly see Cape Cleveland (in the centre of this photo). Smaller, but not small, smoke plumes were visible from around Julago, Oak Valley, Deeragun and Bushland Beach.

    Cape Cleveland (centre) from Castle Hill

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