The 2013 Tasmanian bushfires were a series of bushfires in south-eastern Tasmania in starting in November/December 2012, with major fires in early January 2013, right through until late April 2013.
It was predicted early on that the 2012-13 had the potential to be worse than usual. High fuel loads, coupled with a dry, warm and windy, providing potentially dangerous conditions. The Tasmania Fire Service implemented a new media campaign, with a view to increasing community preparedness and awareness of what to do if bushfires threatened. But nobody predicted that the fire season would last for almost 6 months, which is unprecedented in the recorded history of Tasmania.
During the months of November and December 2012, several significant fire incidents took place, including one fire at Forcett, Tasmania in the South-east of the State. In this incident, several firefighters were injured in a wind change on 29 November 2012. There was a major fire in the central lakes region (Interlaken Rd, Steppes) that was originally reported on 18 December 2012 and was still burning in the middle of January. There were other blazes at Glenlusk, on the outskirts of Hobart City, which destroyed several vehicles and some makeshift dwellings or shacks, while another fire at Rhyndaston Road, Rhyndaston took weeks to control. Extensive efforts were made to control these fires before the expected heat wave at the start of January 2013.
On 3–4 January 2013, a heat wave, which became known as the Angry Summer and which covered most of the southern and eastern portion of the Australian continent, caused a number of fires to spread across the country. The most devastating of these occurred in the Australian state of Tasmania, where several large bushfires burnt out of control. The fires were intensified by the heatwave, with Hobart on 4 January achieving its highest temperature since records began in 1882, reaching 41.8 °C (107.2 °F) at 4:05 pm.
Communities affected by the fires include Bicheno, Boomer Bay, Connelly’s Marsh, Copping, Dunalley, Eaglehawk Neck, Forcett, Murdunna, Primrose Sands, Sommers Bay, Susans Bay, and Taranna. As of 5 January, up to 40 fires were burning across Tasmania and at least 100 properties were destroyed including 65 at Dunalley where the police station, primary school and bakery were destroyed, 15 at nearby Boomer Bay, 12 at Bicheno, and 14 at Sommers Bay. More than 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of bushland were burnt out.
Communities in south-east Tasmania and on the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas were forced to flee as fires came down from the north, cutting the only road out and destroying much of Dunalley. A seaborne rescue operation described as "huge" was launched for the thousands of people sheltering on beaches, in boats and at the Port Arthur historic site. More than two thousand people were ferried to safety by police, commercial vessel operators and private volunteers, and another two thousand people took refuge at a community centre at Nubeena.
Firefighters in the Southern half of the State were concerned that a return of the hot weather from the mainland in early February, would see a return to elevated fire danger ratings. There was a concerted effort to ensure that the community understood that the fire season was not over. There was concern that the fire season could see a repeat of the 1967 fires, or the 1933-34 season. A significant fire started on Glen Dhu Road in the Molesworth area on 6 February 2013, which spread rapidly in rugged terrain, with swirling winds causing unusual (and unpredictable) fire behavior. Due to the nature of the terrain, water-bombing helicopters were used extensively, despite significant dangers posed by high-power transmission lines and smoke. Unfortunately one helicopter crashed while fighting the blaze (Firebird 427), but the pilot was able to exit the aircraft safely and was retrieved by another helicopter. At least two other major blazes were fought on the same date, with blazes at Franklin in the Huon Valley and Lefroy, near Georgetown.
Several fires started in early March, including a fire at Risdon Vale, an eastern shore Suburb of Hobart, which started on 6 March 2013 This fast moving fire started in rugged terrain and directly threatened homes almost immediately, a rapid response from the Tasmania Fire Service, with at least 20 crews, was all that saved homes. The fire got into the rugged terrain to the south and east of Risdon Vale, where it continued to burn, eventually threatening homes on Richmond Road and Cambridge a week later. The fires continued to burn, right up until a major spate of fires occurred on 27 April 2013, the most dangerous of which was at Tea Trea Road, Tea Trea, which spread into the Coal River Valley, threatening Richmond before it was bought under control by Tasmania Fire Service crews.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard toured Sorell and Dunalley on 7 January.
New Zealand sent 12 firefighters to Tasmania to help battle the blazes, on a 16-day mission. One New Zealand firefighter said the conditions were considerably different from what they were used to at home, saying burnt-out falling trees were a real threat to safety. Firefighters and incident managers from Victoria were also deployed.
On 13 January, a Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment firefighter, Peter Cramer, 61, died of natural causes while carry out a reconnaissance on the southern edge of the Forcett fire near the hamlet of Taranna, his body was found about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the southern edge fire front. On the same day the Arthur Highway on the Tasman Peninsula was reopened after the fire that started on 3 January had burnt out an area of over 24,060 hectares (59,500 acres).
On 6 January, the Minister for Emergency Management Nicola Roxon announced that the Federal Government will be giving A$1,000 to Tasmanians affected by the bushfire.
The Red Cross established a specific fund to assist victims and affected communities.
On 6 January, Queen Elizabeth sent a message expressing her concern for the victims of the bushfires in Tasmania. The message was passed on by Tasmanian Governor Peter Underwood, and read;
The Catholic Archbishop of Hobart, The Most Reverend Adrian Doyle received a message from Pope Benedict XVI saying the Pope is saddened about the widespread destruction and thanking firefighters and emergency workers.
A large fire on the Giblin River in January 2013 was not attended to, and burnt a considerable amount of land in the south west national park