Home Emergency Management News EDM Wednesday Briefing: Australia Fire Level Raised to Catastrophic as Temps Soar and Fires Rage
EDM Wednesday Briefing: Australia Fire Level Raised to Catastrophic as Temps Soar and Fires Rage

EDM Wednesday Briefing: Australia Fire Level Raised to Catastrophic as Temps Soar and Fires Rage


Emergency and disaster management briefing for November 20, 2019: Australia sees fire level raised to "catastrophic" as temperatures soar and blazes rage; 14 police officers were injured in a two-alarm fire in New York; authorities in the Netherlands found 25 individuals in a refrigerated container on a truck aboard a ferry bound for England; Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice estimates restoration costs from recent flooding at over 5 million euros; residents in Sydney warned to remain inside as thick, heavy smoke blankets the city from raging fires; PG&E plans PSPS on Wednesday amid forecast dangerous fire weather; a recent AP investigation identifies 1,688 high-hazard dams across 44 states and Puerto Rico; and President Trump approved a disaster declaration for South Dakota after September severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes ravaged portions of the state.

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1) Power has been cut to thousands of people, over 100 schools were closed, and residents in high risk areas evacuated to shelters as about 50 more brush fires erupted in Australia on Wednesday. The fire level is now at "catastrophic," meaning should a fire start, firefighters will not be able to control it due to the extreme temperatures (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 42 degrees Celsius) and dry conditions. So far this month, the fierce wildfires have killed at least six people, destroyed more than 500 homes, and scorched about 2.5 million acres of bush and farmland.

2) A two-alarm apartment fire injured 14 police officers in New York Tuesday evening. The fire erupted at about 11:00 p.m. on Tuesday in the Bronx, and when firefighters and police arrived, flames were already shooting through windows on the second and third floors. The 14 police officers went door to door inside the building to help evacuate residents to safety from about 70 apartments, when they suffered smoke inhalation and were sent to a local hospital for treatment.

3) Authorities in the Netherlands found 25 people inside a refrigerated container on a truck that was aboard a ferry bound for England on Tuesday. The ferry returned to the Dutch port of Vlaardingen, and the individuals, whose origin was unknown, received medical checkups and two of them were transported to the hospital. Dutch authorities detained the truck driver, who was being questioned regarding his possible involvement in human trafficking.

4) After being flooded for only the sixth time in 1,200 years, the crypt in Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice was exposed to corrosive salt water. The exposure of the delicate marble mosaics in the crypt to the corrosive salt water will require millions of euros to complete the restoration work required. The crypt supports the body of the church, an historic monument in Venice, and although experts are still assessing the damage, estimates for immediate clean up are a staggering 5 million euros ($5.54 million).

5) As some residents brace for extreme fire weather conditions, Australia's largest city, Sydney, was blanketed by smoke from the nearly 100 blazes raging along the country's east coast Tuesday. The thick, heavy smoke led to poor air quality, that coupled with the extreme high temperatures, prompted health warnings for the city's nearly 5 million residents. Officials noted that air quality levels were 10 times hazardous levels, and they cautioned residents to remain indoors as much as possible over the coming days.

6) Dangerous fire weather conditions are expected across Sonoma County on Wednesday, and PG&E has announced its plans for Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS). Over the next 24 hours, the company is expecting dangerous fire weather conditions, including low humidity, and winds of 25 to 30 mph, with higher gusts in upper elevations. The PSPS were to begin between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m., and could affect residents in at least 21 communities, including Santa Rosa, Cloverdale, Penngrove, and Villa Grande.

7) An Associated Press investigation has identified 1,688 high-hazard dams across 44 states and Puerto Rico. The high-hazard dams were rated in poor, or unsatisfactory condition, posing a risk to homes and businesses downstream. There were 11 dams identified as high-hazard in Ohio, and like many of the dams across the nation, majority are privately owned, making it difficult for dam officials to require improvements--especially when costs are high and owners are unwilling or unable to pay the bill.

8) President Trump has approved a disaster declaration for South Dakota in the wake of severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes that occurred in the state from September 9 to September 26, 2019. The declaration provides full federal resource support to affected individuals in 11 counties and two Indian reservations impacted by the natural weather events. In addition, local, state, and tribal governments, along with certain non-profit organizations, are also eligible for cost-sharing assistance for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities in 19 counties and two Indian reservations.


Kimberly Arsenault Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.