Bushfires in South Australia - Bushfire is a significant hazard for South Australia. Many families have built their homes in bushland settings. History also testifies to the cost of not taking fire-safety measures, including managing flammable vegetation that is close to homes.
The Ash Wednesday fires of 1983
(Source: "Lewis-Scriven Report of the Review Team on the South Australian Bushfires October 1983")
- The disaster of 16-17 February 1983, commonly referred termed the Ash Wednesday Bushfires, highlighted the threat which is ever present during the summer months in South Australia.
- Earlier fire disasters have occurred; for example, Ash Wednesday 1980, when 51 houses were destroyed and property losses cost more than $6 million.
- The 1983 disaster claimed 28 lives. More that 1500 people were injured, 85 of whom were hospitalised. More than 300 homes were damaged or destroyed, 560 vehicles were destroyed and sheep and cattle losses exceeded 250,000. About 1000 rural properties were affected and 10,000 kilometres of fencing destroyed. The State Woods and Forests Department lost about one quarter of its commercial forests and major losses of National Parks and Wildlife Service reserves were sustained. An estimate for property loss was more than $200 million.
- Early in the evening of 15 February 1983, the Bureau of Meteorology in Adelaide forecast extreme conditions for Wednesday 16 February, with squally hot dry northerly winds, a temperature of over 40C and a relative humidity of less than 15 per cent. On that morning the Director of the Country Fire Services declared a 'Red Alert', placing South Australia under a total fire ban.
- Temperatures that day reached 43oC and north-westerly winds gusted from 75 to 100 km/h. Fires occurred at Clare, in the Adelaide Hills and in the South east of the State, and the provisions of the State Disaster Act were invoked at 1715 hours -- the first time in the State's history.