27th December 2019
- Lightning Strike starts a fire in Badja State Forest near Peters Road.
28th December 2019
- Severe drought conditions.
- Bush tinder dry, hot and windy weather conditions.
- Many other fires burning in region including the very large Currowan fire north of Batemans Bay which had started north west of Nelligen as a result of lightning on the 26th of November.
- This fire had crossed the Kings Highway on Clyde Mountain on 19th December and was spreading south towards Araluen.
- Badja fire quickly spreads.
29th December 2019
- Badja fire continues to spread due to unfavourable weather conditions.
- Fire burning in very rocky terrain.
- Heavy earthmoving plant (bulldozers) in use trying to create containment tracks around the fire.
- Lack of firefighting resources (due to other fires across the state).
- Unable to backburn and mop up quick enough to contain fire.
30th December 2019
- Increasing temperature and wind sees the Badja fire make a run to the east.
- Fire drops over the escarpment.
- Spot fires start to the east of the Tuross River.
- Currowan fire moves to the west of Batemans Bay.
- More lightning strikes start fires west of Bodalla in the Bumbo Creek and Belimbla Creek areas.
- Another strike at Werri Berri north of Bemboka.
31st December 2019
- Under catastrophic fire conditions the Badja fire runs to the south east towards the coast travelling approximately 40kms in just a few hours.
- The Belimbla and Bumbo fires merge with the Baja fire and threaten the Bodalla and Moruya areas.
- This happens in the early hours of the morning with the fire creating its own weather conditions.
- 38deg temp and winds in excess of 100kms per hour at 5am.
- The fire front hits Peak Alone Mountain (Wandellow) and sends two fire fronts, one through Yowrie, Murrabrine, Verona, Quaama and into Mumbulla Mountain (Biamanga).
- The other front through Wandellow, Cobargo and into Coolagalite.
- The townships of Cobargo and Quaama were impacted around 5am
- All local R.F.S. brigades were totally stretched with life and property protection their main priority.
- At 3.30am the Bermagui Surf Club was opened as a evacuation centre.
- Hundreds of people were evacuated there from Cobargo, Quaama, Verona, Brogo, Yowrie, Wandella, Coolagalite, Dignams Creek and Wallaga Lake area including Beauty Point, Fairhaven Point And the three caravan parks who were full of people holidaying there.
- By 5.30m the country club was also open and being filled by evacuated people with coffee and meals being provided.
- Bermagui beachside hotel and other food and coffee places were opening and providing the same.
- All Bermagui and surrounding residents were advised to move to the surf club area, the town oval, Dickinson Point or any parkland east of the bridge.
- Many Bermagui residents opened their homes to evacuated people and provided food and beds.
- At the surf club the George Bass marathon rowers who were in town for the race (which was cancelled) helped set up a barbeque with other voluntary organisations to provide meals etc.
- These areas were full of cars, trucks caravans, boats, buses, motor homes, horse floats and many animals and pets including horses.
- 4 lives were tragically lost in the Cobargo, Belowra and Nerrigundah area defending homes and properties.
- 39 homes, numerous shops and many sheds were lost around the Cobargo and Quaama area.
- Historic homesteads and buildings were lost including the Quaama Anglican Church, Wandella Hall and “Mayview”, “Bredbatoura”and “Murrabrine” homesteads – all over 100yrs old.
- 8am in Cobargo temperature was 40deg and westerly wind gusting over 100kms per hour.
- Smoke so thick in area it was still dark at 10am. (the day the sun forgot to rise)
- All power and communications (phones) were lost around 8am.
- With all R.F.S. and other firefighting agencies and emergency services including police totally stretched in the area and being totally dark no one knew where the fire front was or what was happening causing much anxiety and fear within the people in Bermagui.
- Luckily for Bermagui when the fire front was passing through Coolagalite towards town it met the weather pattern influenced by the ocean (inversion). This meant cooler air temp and higher humidity causing the fire to slow considerably and start to be contained.
- A southerly wind change arrived along the coast around midday with much cooler conditions slowing the fire front and in places pushing it back onto itself.
- Most accommodation places in town took in as many people as they could to shelter and sleep.
- The Currowan fire also made a ferocious run to the coast impacting on Mogo township and surrounding area, Dunnes Creek and then onto Batehaven and surrounds where it burnt to the ocean.
- Southern parts of Batemans Bay including the industrial area were impacted.
- Close to 50 homes and some shops were destroyed in this blaze.
- Hundreds of people took shelter on the beaches there as the fire raged towards them.
1st January 2020
- The Badja fire had joined up with the Belimbla and Bumbo fires to the north and is spreading towards the townships of Narooma, Bodalla, Potato Point, Tuross and Moruya.
- Weather conditions much milder but still very smoky.
- Fires still burning but not under catastrophic conditions.
- More R.F.S and support crews arrive to assist in containment.
- S.E.S and police involved in road openings and closures.
- Still no power or phone services.
- Estimated 4,000 people in Bermagui.
- Princess Highway closed either side of Cobargo.
- Bermagui to Cobargo road closed.
- Only way out of town via Wallaga lake to Narooma or coast road south to Tathra.
- Princess Highway also closed north near Batemans Bay and south of Eden over Victorian border due to fires.
- Kings Highway also closed west of Batemans Bay with the Currowan fire.
- Surf club, Country club and other businesses in town providing meals for evacuated people.
- George Bass rowers in town as well.
- Town meetings at Surf Club in afternoon.
- Not much information available.
- Local A.B.C. radio starts broadcasting hourly updates on the fires. With no power available a battery operated transistor or car radio was the only way to hear broadcasts.
- (When power was restored to the area a few days later the R.F.S. website Fires Near Me ap. And ARC G.I.S. N.S.W fire map ap gave an updated map of the fires spread). These broadcasts and maps were available right through the fires and was a great source of information.
- All tourists advised to leave town towards Bega via Tathra and onto Canberra via Brown Mountain.
- Some people went to Narooma but could not get passed Batemans Bay to return to the north.
- Town running out of food and no fuel available due to no power.
- Generators being sourced for fuel supplies.
- A few small locations around town where limited mobile phone service available.
- More R.F.S strike teams start arriving and the R.F.S set up a command centre in Country club.
- Local earthmoving contractor Bruce Jamieson takes a large wheel loader into the forests west of his property at Cuttagee and clears up kilometres of old roads and trails that were blocked, to act as firebreaks.
2nd January 2020
- Weather conditions still favourable but very smoky.
- Town meeting at Country club at 10am – estimated 500 people in attendance.
- Message from Bega Valley Shire and emergency services was to evacuate Bermagui A.S.A.P as there are not enough resources to defend the town against further fire attacks.
- Evacuation centre at Surf Club closed.
- Centres open at Bega and Narooma.
- Road to Cobargo and Bega open again.
- Woolworths out of food.
- A local fisherman (Trapman) provides 250kg of fresh fish free for the community.
- A generator sourced for service station and limited fuel available.
- A long que forms as people access fuel to leave town.
- Heavy traffic on road to Canberra as people leave.
- Very smoky on road and trip to Canberra taking up to 10hrs – usually 3hrs.
3rd January 2020
- Town becomes a ghost town with few people left here.
- R.F.S and other agencies – N.P.W.S and Forest Corp with heavy plant (bulldozers) continue to try and contain this huge fire.
- The fire front extends from Clarkes Rd south of Mumbulla Mountain (Biamanga) northwards along Lizard Rd, across Murrah river, Cuttagee creek, Nutleys creek and into Coolagalite. Then into Dignams creek around the back of Dromadary Mountain (Gulaga) towards Bodalla.
- As the smoke clears a little and visibility improves, aerial support in helicopters with water buckets and water bombing planes are able to be used to assist in the containment of the fire. They can be seen scooping water from Wallaga Lake and surrounding water bodies
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison visits Cobargo.
4th January 2020
- A few people start to come back to town.
- Still no services available.
- Water still to be boiled for drinking. (due to ash in reservoirs).
- The border fire (Victorian) impacts on the towns around Eden including Kiah, Womboyn, Narrabarba and the Eden woodchip mill.
5th January 2020
- Mobile phone service restored back in town.
- Cobargo and Bermagui back on high alert as fire makes another run and travels back from Mumbulla mountain (Biamanga) area past Quaama towards Bermagui and Coolagalite with a southerly wind influence.
6th January 2020
- Fuel supplies back.
7th January 2020
- Power restored to town.
- Woolworths receive food truck.
- People coming back slowly.
- 10mls of rain fall.
8th January 2020
- Containment and mop-up slow as trails and roads on fire line become slippery and muddy.
- The running fire front stops for the moment.
9th January 2020
- Another 5mls of rain.
10th January 2020
- “World Central Kitchen “sets up at Eastwoods Deli to provide food for firefighters and emergency service personal and residents of the area affected by the fires.
- Up to 900 free meals per day provided.
- Meal delivered to people in outlying fire effected areas.
- 270 volunteers involved either in the kitchen, cleaning or delivering meals.
11th January 2020
- Most residents back but no tourists around town.
12th January 2020
- Mop-up and containment continue on fire front for next few days.
16th January 2020
- 3mls of rain.
18th January 2020
- 8mls of rain.
19th January 2020
- 2mls of rain.
20th January 2020
- Weather starting to warm up again.
21st January 2020
- 8.5mls of rain.
23rd January 2020
- Very high fire danger, hot day 38deg and strong north westerly winds by midday.
- Fire breaks containment lines at Dignams Creek, crosses the Princess Highway and heads towards Bermagui township around 1pm driven by strong north westerly winds.
- Smaller outbreaks in Murrah River road and Head of Cuttagee road areas.
- Dignams Creek fire jumps Narira Creek and Rileys Road and burns in a strip before slowing on Meads Creek road when a cool southerly wind change arrived around 3pm.
- 5 spot fires ignited in Bermagui State Forest ahead of the fire front.
- 3 spots were south of Bermagui / Cobargo road near Wills and Box Flat roads.
- 1 spot on north side near intersection with Wallaga Lake road.
- 1 spot near bike track east of Wallaga Lake road.
- As the bike track fire was contained by a good road system this area was back burnt out overnight.
- The other 4 spots had bulldozers construct earthen tracks around them to contain with mop-up to follow over the next week.
- Several houses and sheds were lost during this attack in the Rileys Road area.
- More lost in the Dignams Creek area also.
- Helicopters with water buckets and water bombing planes used to assist in containment.
- R.F.S., Forest Corp and N.P.W.S. as well as heavy plant (bulldozers) worked through the night to keep this fire contained.
- Country Club again opens its doors as a evacuation centre and to provide meals for fire affected people.
24th January 2020
- The Badja fire is now more than 298,000 hectares in size.
- Crews continue to work on containment, mop-up and back burning on a front extending from Moruya in the north to Tanja in the south.
- R.F.S. strike teams arrive from other states and territories to assist.
- Retired local forestry worker Allan Douch guides bulldozers and graders onto old tracks from past logging that were well overgrown to re-open as fall back and back burn lines if needed in further flare ups surrounding Bermagui.
- These tracks or breaks were from George Street to Doras Top Road on the northern side of the Bermagui River.
- West of Windsong Road off Rileys Road to Pipers Road and Narira Creek.
- On the south side of the river breaks were established either side of Nutleys Creek Road from Alexandra Drive, Mangans Creek Road and Loop Road down to the river.
- Near Black Marlin Drive as well.
- This work took a week to complete.
26th January 2020
- More fires start from lightning at Big Jack mountain and on Postmans track in Tantawanglo mountain ahead of the approaching border fire which was marching north and west towards the townships of Candelo, Wyndham and Bombala.
1st February 2020
- Mop-up continues but resources scaled back.
7th February 2020
- 6mls of rain falls
8th February 2020
- 11mls of rain.
9th February 2020
- 7mls of rain.
10th February 2020
- 53mls of rain.
11th February 2020
- 33mls of rain
12th February 2020
- 15mls of rain
13th February 2020
- Light showers of rain fall intermittently over the next 4 days.
- Level 4 water restrictions were implemented in Bermagui and Cobargo as the run off from the rain had severely affected the water quality in the Brogo reservoir.
- Trucks were used to supplement the supply by carting water from Bega and the defence force set up a filtering plant on site at the dam.
17th February 2020
- The Badja fire was declared contained.
- It had burnt for 48 days and had burnt 315,512 hectares.
- The fire had also joined up with the Currowan fire to the north along the Araluen valley.
5th March 2020
- Another 50mls of rain falls.
- Water supply for Bermagui and Cobargo return to normal.
- The Badja fire is officially declared out after 65 days.
- World Central Kitchen had provided 50,000 free meals up to date.
FAR SOUTH COAST N.S.W. R.F.S Fire Report
- Total area burnt = 628,735.84 hectares.
- Fatalities = 7
- Homes lost = 974
- Homes Damaged = 408
- Other Structures Destroyed = 102
- Other Structures Damaged = 62
- Outbuildings Destroyed = 1,979
- Property Saved = 6,278
- Livestock lost = 3,033
Thank you to Bermagui Rural Fire Brigade
Members worked tirelessly during this time. Some had been away in northern N.S.W. fighting fires for up to a month before the Badja fire started.
Compiled by Allan Douch – President BERMAGUI HISTORICAL SOCIETY INC.
Read a visitor’s experience of the 2019 bushfires by clicking on the following link, https://newmillenniumwritings.org/learning-to-die-and-live-yannick-thoraval/