Arson and Bushfires Affect Thousands
|What is affected||
|Type of violation||
|Date||07 February 2009|
- Land area (square meters)
|- Total value|
|- Number of homes||3500|
|- Total value €|
Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)
The Black Saturday bushfires, were a series of bushfires that ignited or were burning across the Australian state of Victoria on and around Saturday 7 February 2009 during extreme bushfire-weather conditions, resulting in Australia`s highest ever loss of life from a bushfire. 173 people died as a result of the fires and 414 were injured.|
As many as 400 individual fires were recorded on 7 February. Following the events of the 7th of February 2009, that date has since been referred to as Black Saturday.
The majority of the fires ignited and spread on a day of some of the worst bushfire-weather conditions ever recorded. Temperatures in the mid to high 40s (Celsius, approx. 110-120 degrees fahrenheit) and wind speeds in excess of 100 km/h, precipitated by an intense heat wave, fanned the fires over large distances and areas, creating several large firestorms and pyrocumulus systems, particularly north-east of Melbourne, where a single firestorm accounted for 120 of the 173 deaths. A cool change hit the state in the early evening, bringing with it gale-force southwesterly winds in excess of 120 kilometres per hour (75 mph). This change in wind direction caused the long eastern flanks of the fires to become massive fire fronts that burned with incredible speed and ferocity toward towns that had earlier escaped the fires.
The fires destroyed over 2,029 houses, 3,500+ structures in total and damaged thousands more. Many towns north-east of the state capital Melbourne were badly damaged or almost completely destroyed, including Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewen and Flowerdale. Many houses in the towns of Steels Creek, Humevale, Wandong, St Andrews, Callignee, Taggerty and Koornalla were also destroyed or severely damaged, with several fatalities recorded at each location. The fires affected 78 individual townships in total and displaced an estimated 7,562 people, many of whom sought temporary accommodation, much of it donated in the form of spare rooms, caravans, tents and beds in community relief centres.
The majority of the fires were ignited by fallen or clashing power lines or were deliberately lit. Other suspected ignition sources include lightning, cigarette butts, and sparks from a power tool. More distantly implicated was a major drought that has persisted for more than a decade, as well as a domestic 50-year warming trend that has been linked to human-induced climate change. By early-mid March, favourable conditions aided containment efforts and extinguished the fires.
Some of the fires are suspected to have been deliberately lit by arsonists — whose action has been described as "mass murder" by the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Commissioner Nixon stated on 9 February that all fire sites would be treated as crime scenes. On that day a man was arrested in connection with the fires at Narre Warren; it was alleged by police that he had been operating a power tool, sparks from which ignited a grass fire, destroying two houses.
On 12 February, two people were arrested in connection with the fires, having been observed by members of the public acting suspiciously in areas between Yea and Seymour; although they were both released without charges laid.
A man from Churchill was arrested by police on 12 February, in relation to the Churchill fires, and was questioned at the Morwell police station, before being charged on 13 February with one count each of arson causing death, intentionally lighting a bushfire and possession of child pornography. At a file hearing in the Magistrates` Court in Melbourne on 16 February, the man was remanded in custody ahead of a committal hearing scheduled for 26 May. Following the hearing, a suppression order on the 39-year-old man`s identity was lifted, though the order remained in force with respect to publishing his address or any im