On this day: the Canberra Firestorm

In Times Gone By...

Firestorm in Canberra, Australia. 18th January 2003.

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.

Canberra Firestorm 18th January 2003

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.



The first fire tornado in history was recorded during the storm, and remains the only one known to have ever exceeded F3 wind speeds.

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