The 2019-2020 Bushfire season in Australia – as seen through MB members, commenters and friends

LSWCHP – ‘the scene outside the Lakes Entrance bowlo on the evening of the 30th, with the glow of the fires in the distance. We had fire induced cyclonic winds and a foul rain of ash filled sludge.’


LSWCHP – ‘a burnt gumleaf on the doorstep of our friends house the next day. The property was bone dry grass and scrub and was littered with these remains of the ember storm. How it didn’t ignite and burn to a crisp is just one of those miracles.’


LSWCHP – ‘Illustrating the fragility of our society. People get concerned and start stocking up on bottled water. Probably combined with fire related disruption to road transport. Voila, empty shops at my local Woolies in Canberra shortly after new years.’


Haroldus – ‘a picture of the Court House from the balcony of the Imperial Hotel, near the centre of Armidale deserted at about 7.00pm’


Haroldus – ‘smoke across the fields about half an hour out of Armidale on the way to Newcastle. Makes you realise how many tonnes of carbon there is in the air.’


Haroldus – ‘Opel in the smoke framed with trees and flammable low rise’


Haroldus – ‘Sydney Olympic park looking towards the DFS roundabout’


Haroldus – ‘looking across the pond in Bicentennial Park at Opal and various high-rises. These are not treated in anyway, and if anything on the day it was more foreboding.’


China Plate – ‘I snapped these a couple of days before NYE down at Lake Tabourie about 20 minutes south of Ulladulla on the NSW south coast. This particular fire went through here during the first week of December.’


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


China Plate – Lake Tabourie


Stagmal – December 22, South Dubbo


Stagmal – December 22, South Dubbo


Stagmal – December 22, South Dubbo


Cam Anderson – December 31, Batemans Bay


Cam Anderson – December 31, Malua Bay


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – December 19, Australian War Memorial from ANZAC Parade


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – December 19, Canberra Carillon in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – December 29, Sun at Moruya seen through bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – December 31, Bushfire smoke at Broulee


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – December 31, Bushfire remains near Tomboye Road and Princess Highway


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 1, Bush near George Bass Drive at Broulee



Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 1, Helicopter drawing water to fight bushfire from South Broulee


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 1, House at 4 Zanthus Drive Broulee


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Burnt building on Princess Highway at Cobargo


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Canberra sky in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Burnt paddocks South of Cobargo


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Burnt shed South of Cobargo


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Nimmitabel sign


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 2, Road South of Bemboka


‘I went to Broulee on the NSW south coast on Boxing Day. On New Year’s Eve the neighbours and I were ready for the predicted fire. The day before we had wet down everything and cleaned up the day before. We were staying to put out embers only. The sky to the north was brown/yellow. It looked like villages to the north were burning and/or trees were. It was radiating heat from a long way away.

I had 2 hoses in the front yard and 2 in the backyard. The 2 in the back were operated by pumps as one was a bore and the other a tank (topped up by town water). Of course you need electricity to operate the pumps that drive them.

About 0930 the electricity went off. The neighbours decided to leave. So I packed a few things and headed for Moruya, with Mossy my lab. Some people sheltered on the beach which meant you could be leaving your car for the fire. How do you get out later?

At Moruya, there was a centre for us refugees at the showground. It didn’t seem well organised as you could drive in, park where you wanted and not register. There was a Kiwi couple (who lived in Shepparton) in a van next to me. They looked after Mossy for a short time and I later kicked a soccer ball for 40 minutes with their son. When I wanted to leave I asked if I had to deregister (we weren’t told when registering). I was there until about 1800 and then returned to Broulee.

I got a Thai dinner from the local Thai caravan as they had a generator. I kept my milk cold in the freezer (amongst the defrosting contents) so I had cereal for breakfasts. No lunch – a few nuts. Mossy was OK as we had dog food.

I had a couple of battery operated radios. The ABC was not operating and I was stuck with commercial channels. One of which told us we did not have internet coverage or phone coverage. It gave a wonderful run down on the fires but told us to phone a number or visit a web page to get road closures. This was the info I really needed.

Then they basically ordered tourists out of the area. I dumped all food from the freezer into the bin and it won’t be collected for a week unless the fire cooks it.

People were queued at petrol stations. I had kept the car full of petrol but had got down to ¾ enough to get to Cooma and probably Canberra.

A mass exodus occurred. The only way was via Cooma (417kms and usually 4hrs 17 minutes). So I left at 0910 and had a good run to Narooma and then bumper to bumper. A good run to Beauty Point and then bumper to bumper. A good run along the Cobargo Road but on the Snowy Mts Highway bumper to bumper to Bemboka. A good run to Cooma and then a mixture to Canberra. I got home at 1820 (9 hours 10 minutes). Thick smoke all the way. I put some more petrol in the car at Cooma.

A couple of houses were lost in Broulee, some bush near the George Bass Drive, some damage to the two schools and some of the bush along the dunes. 

I will go back when electricity is restored if the house is still standing.’


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Avenue of Flags in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Lake Burley Griffin in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Carillon in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, High Court in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, National Library in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Parliament House in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Questacon in bushfire smoke


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 5, Red Rumped Parrot (f) in bushfire smoke near Questacon


Geoff McVeigh (ACT) – January 6, Mt Spring as seen from Mt Majura through bushfire smoke


Gunnamatta – January 6, ‘The burbs of Geelong, more than 500klm from the nearest serious fires, and circa 750klm from where the smoke was blowing down from (Kangaroo Island, SA) got a pea soup smog.’


Miguel de Sousa – January 6, Carlton Gardens


Miguel de Sousa – January 6, Carlton looking down Exhibition St – Eureka Tower invisible


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, ‘around Woodside and Charleston in SA as a result of the Cudlee Creek fire on 20th December. This area has never previously experienced a bushfire. One person dead, ~85 houses destroyed and about a third of all vines burnt. I found the koala sitting in the ash on the side of the road. He was in reasonable condition but severely dehydrated. He is now with wildlife carers.’ 


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Desmodromic – SA Bushfires, Cudlee Creek fire on December 20. Photos around Woodside and Charleston.


Adam Darwin – View of the Opera House and eastern burbs of Sydney from the bridge, November 21


Dr Smithy – Noosa Golf Course, November 9 2019


Gavin – December 10, Backyard smoke, Five Dock NSW


Gavin – December 10, Backyard smoke, Five Dock NSW

Gavin (on behalf of a friend) – Kempsey NSW


LeMon3 – Burned out tree at Rumba Dump, near Taree, last Sunday, about 1.5m in diameter at the base


LeMon3 – Rumba Dump fire’s first visit to the Edible Forest, 12th November


LeMon3 – This one is my Land Rover as fire truck, November 19th as the Rumba Dump fire was bearing down on Wherrol Flat, near Taree, NSW. This fire started in August & is still buning today…


Paul Jaffe (Milton, SE NSW) – Saturday 4th January later about 6PM this is the view from looking back across Burrill Lake toward our farm. Miraculously the fire went around us and we only had few trees singed.


Paul Jaffe (Milton, SE NSW) – Saturday 4th just as the southerly hit. it is like a wave coming toward us.


Paul Jaffe (Milton, SE NSW) – About 3 minutes later it hit us. it was actually much darker than this appears.


Patrick Dale – December 10 ‘My office view facing SE across Hyde Park Sydney from Elizabeth St on 10 Dec. This was the worst day for smoke in Sydney this season in my experience.’


…if anyone has more photos to add can you beam them to [email protected] (with a basic caption of where and when)


  1. Oh man gunna this is really good, Geoff has some great pics which mean more when put in context.

  2. I spent 17 years living in Beijing, over 3 different periods starting in 95 and ending in 17. Once we finally clued into the hazards of air pollution it took us (the foreigners) a couple of years to wrap our heads around the air pollution properly, and to figure out how to protect ourselves as much as possible. After we all started paying attention to it I don’t remember the air quality index being over 1300 at it’s worst (I’ve spoken to a couple of other friends who said they don’t remember it being much over 1000).

    When it was 1300 approx we called it airmageddon or the airpocalypse. A few times it would get to 700-900. In winter we would frequently frequently get an extended period of elevated air pollution of around 400-500 aqi. These were horrible. They’d last 5-7 or horror of horrors 9 days. No sun, just thick pea soup air. Despite running 3 air filters 24/7 in my 75sqm apartment and wearing a mask when outside and reducing exercise it would take 2-3 days for my lung function to return to normal after one of these horrible times. By the time I left it was taking a week for my lungs to return to ‘normal’.

    I can not begin to imagine just how bad the aqi of 2000+ that much of Sydney and it’s surrounds has experienced, and the aqi of 3000+ that Canberra has had is beyond insane and is inconceivable, though from my time in China I know the inconceivable is frequently and unfortunately all too real, so what is initially unbelievable is also undeniable.

    You all have my utmost sympathy. Please protect your health. Wear masks if you have access to them. Buy air filters if you can afford it. Make your home more air tight if possible. Reduce physical exercise if you can on high pollution days.

    While an x-ray showed I hadn’t done any long term damage to my lungs and I managed to avoid heavy metal poisoning, I am far more sensitive to air pollution than I used to be and I don’t feel like my lung capacity is as good as it was. This smoke is a public health disaster of epic proportions. Please take care.

    • HadronCollisionMEMBER

      Great post.
      I think what’s missing from the AGW polarised madness is we are simply poisoning ourselves. (Not to derail the thread, sorry)

    • Hmm perhaps I shouldn’t have cycled in Sydney on 1 of those bad smoke days! Oops.. I didn’t cycle hard though.

      • boomengineeringMEMBER

        One day rode to North Head and couldn’t see South Head except for a faint light. Same as you didn’t ride hard and on;y 1 lap.

    • I was in Canberra on Sunday 5-Jan when the AQI was 4000+, and some of Geoff McVeigh’s pics show the horror story. Visibility was about 50m from my front door and the place was suffused with a hellish orange glow all day. I went outside and after a couple of breaths I started gagging and almost threw up on the doorstep. It was like having a cigar smoker blow rancid clouds of smoke directly into my face as I tried to breathe. Nightmarish stuff.

      • I was in Canberra Dec 29th – Jan 2nd. Could. Not. Believe It. Lungs burning, eyes wateing while we there, The smoke rolling in with the cool change on NYE was a sight to behold. The day we left (fled) it was pea soup until we got to Albury. Incredible. This is one for the history books.

  3. Im actually surprised at the lack of footage of these fires in this day and age of everyone having a camera in their pocket. I think the footage of the Canberra fires many years ago was the best in showing how damn terrorfying aussie bushfires can be.

    Hope to see more pics from peeps. These things really live on in peoples psychies. Two years ago I travelled back through Adelaide on holiday and happened to take the old hills road which went past “eagle on the hill” which was an iconic pub that burned in the ash wednesday fires. I still remembered it being in the news all those years ago even though I was only in primary school when it all went down. I still remember the dark smokey sky from that day as well.

  4. Wouldn’t have made much of a photo, but just one cafe in Ulladulla cooking on a gas grill in the dark and taking only cash payments on New Year’s Eve. Charging their normal prices. Huge queue. Eventually said it was too dark, they’d have to stop. Someone in the queue gave them a head torch and they kept cooking. Only food in the whole area. No shops, supermarkets, power, phone, internet. That cafe probably did more to avert a humanitarian crisis than the government.

    • HadronCollisionMEMBER

      I think a well composed/framed photo of that would have been a prize winner, actually.

  5. truthisfashionable

    I like the photos from China Plate, they highlight how quickly the bush can refuel itself for another fire.

    Presumably all the previous ground covering burnt, the trees go into protection and the leaves dry out, then fall off the branches back onto the ground adding back to the fuel load.

    • Lenny Hayes for PMMEMBER

      Yeah those pics were eerie.

      Appears like the fire has just leapt from treetrunk to treetrunk. Quite amazing.

  6. Janus Cuke Umber

    My concern is that once all this passes people will quickly forget the scale of these bushfires.

      • yep, some comments of how aussies pull together in a crisis, that we are exceeding our Paris targets, how the ALP and Greens are to blame and how housing is booming should be enough to do it.

      • I think it is already happening. SmoCo is very keen to be seen virtue signalling from an army tent, trying to erase memories of Hawaii… media, especially Murdoch, doing it’s darndest to support SmoCos image.

        • Mining BoganMEMBER

          Yesterday he said Strayans should holiday locally to support the regions. No really, he did.

  7. bolstroodMEMBER

    Mt Nardi near Nimbin is once again shrouded from view from my deck.
    I doubt it is bong smoke

    • HadronCollisionMEMBER

      All clear in Lismore, by god it’s hot in the wok.
      But smokey out that way…things could easily head south again
      this weekend rain can’t come fast enough
      next week is looking damp

  8. HadronCollisionMEMBER

    Got lots of photos of smokey sunrises from the Northern Rivers fires but not a pinch on these. iPhones don’t capture a smokey red sunrise like the eye does and the wife’s 5D MkIV + 24-70 still ain’t a pinch

    I think too what’s missing is the psychological effect. We’ve basically had fires on the Northern Rivers since I think late June (Rappville, correct me if I am wrong lno/bolstrood) and we’ve had fires either on/off or consistently alight SINCE then. Months and months of being prepared – woolen blankets in car, gear in car, being ready to go – compounded by months of high-extreme risk takes a toll.

    Then it’s things like my 4yo son telling me he had a dream our house was alight, or asking before bed if our house would catch on fire tonight – it’s pervasive, so you have to talk to them about what is going on…it’s a lot to think about for an already heavy thinking/deep thinking 4 yo. Heart breaking.

    Then there’s the constant rationing of water – I think the kids have had 1 bath since maybe August. We’re lucky as we have at least 30,000L left on the house with rain imminent, but still.

    Then there’s things like not being able to go for a run or ride as the smoke is so bad. I know it’s stupid when people have lost everything, but it’s little things like that that you take for granted that makes you realise how bad things have got.


    Thanks for readers for sharing

    @LSWCHP your supermarket photo reinforces why we all need to be a little bit prepper. Thin veneer on civility but goodness Aussies have pulled together

    • That photo of the supermarket shelves reminds me of the Brissy floods in 2011. The anxiety was palpable – people were just filling trolleys. Long-life milk never seemed so attractive. On the day the flooding peaked I recall cycling the neighbourhood – aside from a lone person transferring a horse to higher ground, only the tumble-weed was active.

      • HadronCollisionMEMBER

        My red hot tip for you is cartons of Vitasoy Calciplus. Good in lattes, good in brotein shakes, good on cereal (obviously high quality nutty granolas, or Kapai Puku) especially with Coconut yoghurt.

        And for a real treat, maca milk, goes a treat with chai (so I am told).

    • Locus of ControlMEMBER

      I was listening to the radio this morning (ABC Radio National) and there was discussion about how there was STILL no power or telecomms in some places affected by the bushfires which equates to no EFTPOS/ internet banking. There was also discussion about how people reliant on Centrelink cards (“income managed” I presume) for obtaining goods couldn’t use them either. Which goes to show cash still has a place in society, even with all our you-beaut whiz-bang tech. People need to be keeping at minimum a couple hundred dollars on them / aside in cold hard cash for times of emergency. There was also some discussion during the radio segment about how people without cash were relying on the favours of those with cash to buy things for them (which isn’t sustainable because it drains those people’s cash reserves faster too which was mentioned) and I think there was also discussion here on MB last week about how some people on the NSW South Coast without cash to pay for petrol (EFTPOS was down) were just fuelling up and driving off without paying (theft) during the emergency evacuation.

      • I’ve always paid cash for most things, just the way I am. I try to match the price best I can so the change is small. Over recent months I’ve been told a few times that soon I won’t be getting change & I’ll have to give tips as they’re thinking of dropping their float….. When I say ‘then you might not get my business” they look at me like I should just update & get with the program….. No thinking out there! Down here they were taking pictures of peoples CC & drivers licenses so they could claw back when their systems were up & running.

      • bolstroodMEMBER

        My submission to the Senate Committee on a Cashless Society was based around the need for Cash in an emergency situation.
        It was rejected.

        • How can they *reject* a submission??? Surely they have to accept and read all submission?

        • Some Treasury boffin decided that many submissions were associated with the CEC so rejected them. You can submit them again for the next round, and state that you have no association with the CEC.

    • Mining BoganMEMBER

      You would see that supermarket pic in FNQ at least twice a year as cyclones came whirling around.

      Protip: change your stocks of tinned goods in your emergency kit regularly. Being forgetful/lazy arsed can lead to a baked bean explosion, most yucky to clean up.

    • My partner and I have started stocking an emergency pantry, on the basis that electrickery and water may not be reliable in the future. Dried food, tinned food, disinfectant, lots of water etc etc. There’s a NSW gov website that provides good advice in this regard.

      Everthing is marked with purchase and use by date, and I have a spreadsheet to manage it all. I’ve done this before, and as MiBo says, if you don’t cycle stuff through as it ages it won’t turn out well.

      I also picked up an extra 800 rounds of .22LR, .22 WMR and .17 HMR just in case. 🙂

  9. Over the ditch in Auckland we’ve been able to smell the smoke on and off since mid-November and the sky’s been hazy almost continuously. Feel sorry for you all over there…

  10. Great Photos, thanks.

    I didnt realise Canberra had got that bad – the Geoff McVeigh photos are great.

    and the Cam Anderson on of the crowds on the beach says more about the response than anything I’ve seen in the press

    Great post

  11. Canberra was bad, Bombala was worse, but at Bermagui NewYears eve 8.30am the sky was black

  12. Diogenes the CynicMEMBER

    Thanks Gunna very sobering pictures. A mate of mine just came back from holiday in Canberra (he has family there). He said it was absolutely awful being outside so they pretty much stayed inside 99% of the time. The air quality index went over 4000 in Canberra at one point which is insane.

    • GunnamattaMEMBER

      For mine, when you think that much of the Australian East Coast has been generating massive amounts of smoke, you can see why there is so much it is reaching South America. I also tend to the view that unless one of the cyclones of Northern West Australia comes through and dumps a load of rain in SA and Victoria, then the parts which havent yet actually had a major fire outbreak – the Otways and SW Victoria, as well as the areas in closer to Melbourne, Daylesford, Kyneton, the Dandenongs and up through towards Eildon – would still be at real risk of doing so.

  13. smokey_del_rossaMEMBER

    In his ole rockin chair thinkin of the ole days in 1896 in Bourke when hot was hot …

  14. – It’s good to see that Parliament House in Canberra also receives a good solid dose of “bushfire smoke”. I hope it will help to push ScoMo into action and get him off his “rear end”.

    • A friend in Brazil told me it is reaching the south of Brazil by Monday/Tuesday. This isn’t just about us, it’s about others as well. This I think SmoCo doesn’t get.

  15. Great post. My smoke detector went off at 1am one night as the thickest smoke seeped in through a few air holes, in Canberra.

  16. Hazy all day in Melbourne today, getting thicker as the day went on.
    Most days it’s just smelt smoky, but tonight it smells strongly of eucalyptus oil.
    Perhaps I haven’t been noticing, but I can’t remember it smelling like that before. And it’s quite warm and still.

  17. Anyone seen any pics of WA/SA Eyre Highway fires? Would be good perspective, but probably unlikely to get photos as so remote & road cut since 20 December & if you were there you’d be fighting hard. Can’t see how that one would go out without some sort of cyclonic dump. Went up through the Adelaide Hills the other day to Melbourne. Seriously that could go up like a powder keg. They may have had a fire already but there is sooooo much to still burn & in highly populated suburbs as far as I could see. Pretty much like outer Eastern Melbourne & Yarra areas. Lots could still go up.

    • Densely populated with lots of flora that hasn’t been cleared are obviously the danger areas. The Cuddly Creek fire in the Adelaide hills was caused by a power line hit by a falling tree branch from heavy wind. Apparently the house that the branch fell in front of survived while neighbouring properties were destroyed. Cruel irony.

  18. boomengineeringMEMBER

    Paul Jaffe, Our Winnie ( bench kelpie) was born in Milton, where we went on multiple occasions, nice country/ place.

  19. desmodromicMEMBER

    The impact of this angry summer has been particularly cruel to some. Yesterday I was talking to a local property manager, one of his clients lost two investments properties in the Adelaide Hills fire in December and two farms on Kangaroo Island in the past few days. This comes on top of being heavily impacted by flooding on their cattle property in north QLD that had been their main residence before moving south earlier last year.

  20. We drove back from Gippsland via Melbourne and took the scenic route around the hills in the east. I was gobsmacked…there are whole communities there one after the other embedded deep in eucalypt forest with no evident fire prevention measures. It seemed to me a matter of when not if they go up in a wall of flame.

    Rural fringe life can be great, but you have to understand the reality of the bush and take sensible precautions, which none of those people seem to be doing.