Track Australia’s raging bushfires with these official sources

Here’s how people in the country and overseas can monitor the movement of fire fronts in real time.

firefighting helicopter
A firefighting helicopter tackles a bushfire in Victoria’s East Gippsland region, Australia.State Government of Victoria

Amanda Gearing is a journalist, author, and broadcaster at Queensland University of Technology. This article originally featured on The Conversation.

As I write this, fires are consuming huge swathes of Australia and conditions are expected to worsen. The situation is attracting global interest, and reporting has been extensive.

But it isn’t always easy to find reliable information on how the situation is developing in specific areas that are home to your family and friends.

The following short guide draws on my experience covering bushfires as a reporter and my academic research. It may not be exhaustive but is intended to help Australians and their overseas family and friends source useful information and monitor the movement of fire fronts in real time.

National maps

The Geoscience Australia Digital Earth Australia Hotspots shows the national picture. (As noted here, it is being upgraded to the new and improved Digital Earth Australia Hotspots site.)

Australia fire map
The national fire situation as of January 3, 2020.Geoscience Australia, CC BY

The latest fire weather warnings are also available on the Bureau’s National Warnings page.

Fast-breaking news and emergency broadcasts

The latest warnings and news coverage are available for each state via the ABC emergency broadcaster in each state and territory. For current ABC emergency alerts, warnings and news coverage see:

In fast-moving and emergency fire situations, ABC Radio posts directly to its Facebook page Bushfire Recovery Relief page.

For fast-breaking news, follow the Twitter hashtags: #ausfires, #bushfiresaustralia, #nswfires, #vicfires, #tasfires, and #wafires.

Sources for different regions

South eastern Australia

As strong south-easterly winds arrive during Friday night and on Saturday, it will be too dangerous in some areas for ground crews to confront rapid-moving fire fronts.

Evacuation orders were issued early on Friday for East Gippsland areas west of Kosciuszko National Park, southwest of Canberra, in addition to evacuation orders issued for three other areas of southeast New South Wales.

A fleet of aircraft monitors the movement of active fire fronts overnight using infrared cameras. During the day, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft drop water and fire retardants to protect towns and houses where possible.

Aircraft movements over fire zones can be tracked in real time using Flightradar24.

Residents and visitors to southeastern Australia were asked to leave before the most severe weather conditions arrive on Saturday, with temperatures to soar to the mid to high 40s (Celsius) and for strong and changeable winds.

Destroyed buildings are seen in Cobargo
Destroyed buildings are seen in New South Wales on January 1. Several bushfire-ravaged communities in the region have greeted the new year under immediate threat.AAP Image/Sean Davey

Victoria

In Victoria, a state of sisaster has been declared as dozens of new, active fires are burning across hundreds of square miles of inaccessible rugged and mountainous national parkland.

Residents of towns in East Gippsland were ordered to evacuate this week ahead of dangerous fire conditions.

To monitor active fires in Victoria, see Country Fire Authority notifications, download the VicEmergency App (and follow the VicEmergency Twitter account) and listen to the emergency broadcaster, ABC Radio.

In Gippsland, listen to the local ABC Gippsland station and connect with the local Gippsland community for the latest updates at ABC Gippsland Facebook page.

New South Wales (NSW)

To monitor the whole region’s fire situation, see the NSW Fires Near Me website and app.

map icons
Fires Near Me map icons.NSW RURAL FIRE SERVICE

People in several parts of NSW have been advised to leave now. In some areas, people have been told it is already too late to leave. Key areas include:

  • The south coast of NSW from Bateman’s Bay to Wonboyn near the Victorian border. Thousands of people trapped in the danger zone since New Year’s Eve are leaving by car or boat ahead of the worsening conditions.
  • The Batlow/Wondalga area southwest of the national capital, Canberra. Motorists have been told it is not safe to enter the area. People leaving were told to travel north towards Wagga Wagga but were later told it is too late to leave.
  • The Shoalhaven area near Sussex Inlet. Firefighters expect extreme conditions worse than those on New Year’s Eve. It is likely that roads will be cut, potentially trapping people on beaches again.
  • The popular skiing resorts of the Snowy Monaro. Evacuations have been ordered from Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kosciusko, in Kosciusko National Park, and the towns of Jindabyne, Berridale and Anglers Reach. Updates are available via the Monaro Team Rural Fire Service.
  • The area of Khancoban and the large area west of the Kosciuszko National Park. Fire authorities warn that communities in this area would not be defendable on Saturday.

The situation is rapidly changing, so check local information (or stay in touch via the ABC emergency broadcasts) for the most up to date advice.

New South Wales evacuation map
The state’s rural fire service instructed tourists to leave the area between Batemans Bay and the Victoria border before Saturday, January 4 due to forecasts of widespread extreme fire danger.Reuters Graphic, via AAP

Tasmania

Follow the Tasmanian Fire Service website for the latest updates and warnings. To connect with the residents in the area, see the Tasmania Fire Service Facebook page.

South Australia

Follow the South Australian Country Fire Service for updates. Current fires are burning in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the West Coast and the Riverland districts.

A dangerous fire is burning on Kangaroo Island south of Adelaide. An emergency warning was issued Friday afternoon asking people to leave and warning the fire may pose a threat to lives directly in the path of the fire.

Western Australia

Follow Emergency WA. A total fire ban has been declared in Western Australia but there are no current emergency warnings. There are bushfire advice notifications for several fires burning in Western Australia.

Queensland

Current bushfires can be monitored on the Queensland Government Rural Fire Service website. To monitor fire advice, watch and act alerts and emergency alerts see the Current Bushfires page of the Rural Fire Service website.

Traffic updates

Live traffic updates are available at Live Traffic NSW and via the Live Traffic NSW App.

Motorists can create a free account so they can plan their journey and get updates on traffic hazards if roads along your planned route become impassable.

Missing people

People who are leaving home due to the bushfires are asked to register with the Red Cross Register. Find. Reunite service online or at evacuation centres. Family and friends can use this site to check on their loved ones.

Community networks

If there’s a key area of interest for you, search for the local fire brigade and community Facebook page. Areas that are facing severe fire threat include Mallacoota, Batlow; Shoalhaven and Snowy Monaro.

How you can help

Information on how you can help can be found on the NSW Rural Fire Service website here.