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Pinery Fire

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Fast Facts
Type of event Natural Disaster


Town or locality Pinery to Mallala, Owen, Barabba, Wasley, Roseworthy, Hamley Btidge, Kapunda


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Around noon on 25 November 2015, the Pinery fire was started by a spark from an electric fence in a paddock bordering Plains Road and Port Lorne Road in the lower Mid North wheat-growing locality of Pinery, 70 kilometres (43 mi) due north of Adelaide's centre.[28] Shortly after noon, the first alert message for the Pinery fire was issued by the Country fire service, the fire burning east of Avon on Port Lorne Road. The warning was upgraded 10 minutes later to emergency level, with the fire burning in a south-easterly direction and impacting on properties around Mallala.[29] According to a Pinery farmer who spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Landline program, local farmers were "...confronted with two kilometres of 30-foot-high wall of flame."[1] An hour later the emergency warning area was expanded to include Magdala, Pinkerton Plains, Redbanks, Wasleys and Woolsheds as the fire moved in a south-easterly direction, and by 14:30 ACDT (UTC+10:30) the fire was impacting properties in the areas around Gawler, Hewett and Roseworthy.[30]

However, a wind change passed the fire ground at approximately 15:00 ACDT (UTC+10:30), causing the fire front to expand in a northerly direction, and by 15:17 ACDT (UTC+10:30) the fire was traveling in a north-easterly direction towards Barabba, Freeling, Greenock, Hamley Bridge, Kapunda, Nuriootpa, Owen and Tarlee.[31] At 16:25 ACDT (UTC+10:30), the area placed under an emergency warning was expanded again to include Dutton, Eudunda, Marrabel and Riverton.[32] A worker at a piggery between Wasleys and Mallala reportedly "...drove 120 kilometres per hour in one direction away from the fire, before seeing the wind swing around and having to double back in the opposite direction." The man, who spoke to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation described "...flames taller than buildings".[33] The members of three Country Fire Service brigades were trapped between Wasleys and Mallala during the wind change and sheltered in their vehicles during a burn over, however there were no injuries.[5]

At 21:30 ACDT (UTC+10:30) all warnings for the Pinery fire were downgraded to "watch and act", however the fire had already impacted directly on property as far north as Tarlee, as far east as Belvidere and as far south as Roseworthy.[7][34] By 26 November, approximately 400 firefighters and 70 firefighting appliances had been deployed to fight the fire and both the Horrocks and Thiele Highways were closed to all but emergency traffic.[35] On 2 December, eight days after ignition, all warnings for the fire ceased; the fire had burned property across a fire front of over 210 kilometres (130 mi).[33][36] During the entire duration of the fire, at least 1,700 firefighters and volunteers were deployed, including a large interstate deployment of strike teams from Victoria's Country Fire Authority (CFA).[37]

Aftermath[edit]

There were two human fatalities during the Pinery fire, both on the afternoon of 25 November. Janet Hughes, 56, was trapped in her car on Owen Road outside Hamley Bridge and died at the scene. Fellow residents believed Mrs. Hughes was attempting to reach her partner, who was at work in nearby Balaklava, when her car left the road and ignited.[38] While assisting another man to defend a neighbor's property, Allan Tiller, 69, was overcome by the fire front in a Pinery paddock and died of his injuries at the scene.[9][10][11]

Significant damage was caused to numerous communities across an 86,000 hectares (210,000 acres) area in the council areas of Light, Wakefield, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Mallala.[39] At least 91 houses were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by fire damage during the Pinery fire, the vast majority during the initial six hours after ignition.[12][40] In the town of Wasleys, a lawn bowls club and a post office were gutted by the fire.[39] Also destroyed were 388 non-residential buildings, 98 vehicles and 93 pieces of farm machinery.[15] Numerous civilian vehicles were destroyed along the Horrocks, Sturt and Thiele highways as people attempted to flee; approximately 110 kilometres (68 mi) of roads and roads infrastructure—including bridges and signage—were damaged or destroyed by the fire.[41]

The fire had a catastrophic impact upon the rural industry of Lower Mid North, Light River and west Barossa regions. A large quantity of livestock perished in the fire, including 53,600 poultry, 17,000 sheep, 500 pigs, 87 cattle, 19 horses and three Alpaca.[15] Many of the livestock were buried in mass graves across the region.[42] Approximately two-thirds of the area burned in the Pinery fire was estimated to have been paddocks and fields of produce; 120,000 tonnes of agricultural crops—including wheat, barley, canola, lentils and chickpeas—with a value of up to A$40 million were destroyed.[17][43]

On 17 March 2016, winds of up to 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph) during a thunderstorm that passed over the fire ground created a dust storm, which affected towns in the mid-north of South Australia and in the Barossa Valley.[44]

Aid and recovery[edit]

Those in the Light, Wakefield, Clare and Gilbert Valleys, and Mallala council areas who suffered loss or injury as a result of the fires were able to claim a one-off Disaster Recovery Payment and, in some cases, a 13-week Disaster Recovery Allowance, both provided by the State Government of South Australia.[45]

$A84,000 was donated by businesses and the community to the RSPCA, which then allocated the funds to the University of Adelaide's School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and the Veterinary Health Centres to treat pets and livestock injured in the blaze.[46]



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