In early January 2013, hot, windy conditions fanned up to 40 fires throughout Tasmania. The main fire started near Forcett and caused significant damage to local townships, particularly Dunalley, east of Hobart, where more than half of the town’s buildings and a primary school were destroyed. Other significant fire fronts were located at Lake Repulse and Bicheno.
Economically, the impacts from the fires were very significant with an estimated 100 businesses directly affected and 150 indirectly affected. The two largest employers in the Dunalley region, a timber business and abalone business, experienced losses which caused significant impacts on the local region and economy. Electricity company, Aurora, reported approximately 300 electricity poles were destroyed on the Tasman Peninsula, causing power outages for a considerable time.
Losses in primary production included 15 large farms in the Forcett region, which suffered significant damage, with one estimating the cost at $1 million. Others farms of various sizes lost pasture, livestock, residences, fencing, sheds and equipment and future income for the 2013 and 2014 financial years. Nine oyster farms were affected by fire and suffered damages estimated at $3 million.
Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments were made available to residents in the south-east and east of Tasmania, covering the affected local government areas of Sorell, Tasman and Glamorgan-Spring Bay. Other grants made available were immediate cash assistance grants, housing assistance grants, Aurora energy assistance and clean-up and assistance grants. A first stage recovery payment from the Red Cross Appeal Distribution Committee was distributed, providing $3000 per adult and $1000 per child by late January. The Department of Human Services has allocated more than $7,845,000 to cover approximately 6900 claims.
These fires were described as the worst in almost half a century. On 14 January, a Tasmanian Bushfire Recovery Taskforce was established and the state moved to recovery mode. The taskforce estimated that rebuilding communities could take up to two years, with contractors expected to start clearing damaged properties by the end of January.
The Insurance Council of Australia estimated the preliminary damage of the Tasmanian fires at $89 million.