History of Natural Disasters

Our Shire has faced several natural disasters throughout its history and has experienced various events that have had significant impacts on our community. Narrabri Shire is prone to events such as:

  • Bushfires: Bushfires remain a significant threat in the Shire, particularly during hot and dry conditions. These fires can pose risks to lives, property, and the environment.
  • Droughts: Like much of Australia, Narrabri Shire has also been affected by droughts, which can have profound effects on agriculture, water resources the community and local economy. Prolonged dry periods can lead to water shortages, crop failures, and financial hardship for farmers with the flow on effect to businesses.
  • Floods: Narrabri Shire has a history of flooding, primarily due to the Namoi River. Flood events have occurred periodically, causing damage to infrastructure, homes, and agriculture. Significant floods have been recorded in the past, including in 1955 and 1971, which resulted in widespread inundation and disruption to both business' and the community. 
  • Severe storms: Narrabri Shire can experience severe thunderstorms, accompanied by strong winds, heavy rainfall, and hail. These storms have the potential to cause damage to buildings, vehicles, and infrastructure, as well as disrupt power supplies and communication networks.
  • Heatwaves: Like much of inland Australia, Narrabri Shire is susceptible to heatwaves during the summer months. Extreme heat can pose health risks, particularly to vulnerable populations, and can also increase the likelihood of other natural disasters such as bushfires. 
Here's a general overview of events that have occurred across our Shire:



The 1951 fire was the largest fire recorded in the Pilliga Forest. With an area of 350,000 hectares, it burnt 60% of the Pilliga Forest over two weeks. The cause was attributed to a lorry backfiring.

The fire occurred after the record rains of 1950. This produced ephemeral fuels along valleys, encouraging rapid and continuous spread of fire. 


The 1982 Pilliga Forest bushfire, sparked by a lightning strike on December 3, was notable for its extreme behaviour, occurring during a widespread drought. It was first detected on December 5 and escalated significantly by December 8, before being brought under control by December 10.

Covering an extensive area of approximately 110,000 hectares, the fire exhibited extraordinary expansion on December 6, advancing about 35 kilometres to the east and consuming an additional 62,800 hectares.

Weather conditions at 3.00pm on December 6 were particularly challenging, with temperatures reaching 37 degrees Celsius, relative humidity at 24%, and winds blowing at 36 kilometres per hour from the NNW. Notably, efforts to contain the fire along the southern perimeter were aided by previous fuel management burning along Delwood Road, conducted two years prior.

This preparation likely contributed to the successful containment of the fire in that area. Overall, the 1982 Pilliga bushfire remains a significant event in the region's history.


The 1997 Narrabri Shire bushfires had devastating impacts on the region. It was ignited by lightning on November 28, 1997, amid extremely dry conditions following a season with average rainfall. The fire, known as the Timmallallee Creek fire, rapidly spread due to strong winds and dry vegetation.

The fire exhibited significant runs on various days, moving large distances in multiple directions. It breached control lines and posed a serious threat to homes, farms, and infrastructure. Despite the efforts of emergency services, including firefighters and volunteers, several homes and outbuildings were destroyed across the Shire.

The environmental impact was severe, with native vegetation and wildlife habitats destroyed, and smoke blanketing the town of Narrabri, affecting air quality and visibility. The community rallied together to support evacuees and those who lost their homes, with local charities, businesses, and volunteers assisting.

Recovery efforts were extensive, with residents working to restore properties and rehabilitate affected landscapes. Additionally, a strategy known as "the Blue Line" was employed, involving the construction of a fallback control line outside the eastern perimeter of the Pilliga Forest, in grassland, to contain the fire. This strategy, supported by local firefighters, aimed to utilise resources more efficiently and effectively to combat the fire's spread.


In 2001, Narrabri Shire experienced a series of devastating bushfires that ravaged large areas of bushland and rural areas. The fires were fuelled by hot, dry conditions and strong winds, which assisted their rapid spread. Several separate fire fronts emerged across the Shire, posing a significant threat to homes, farms, and natural habitats.

Firefighters battled tirelessly to contain the blazes, often facing challenging terrain and limited resources. Despite their efforts, the fires consumed vast areas of land, destroying vegetation, wildlife habitats, and property. Residents were forced to evacuate their homes, seeking refuge in emergency shelters or with friends and family. 


In 2013, Narrabri Shire faced another severe bushfire season, with multiple fires breaking out across the region. Dry vegetation, coupled with hot and windy weather conditions, created ideal conditions for the starting and spread of fires. The fires threatened residential areas, agricultural land, and critical infrastructure, prompting evacuation orders and emergency response efforts.

Firefighters from across the state worked tirelessly to contain the blazes, often employing aerial water bombing and back-burning techniques to create fire breaks and control the spread of flames. Despite their efforts, several properties were lost, and extensive damage occurred to forests and grazing land. 


The summer of 2019-2020 brought unprecedented bushfires to Australia, including Narrabri Shire, as part of the broader national bushfire crisis. Prolonged drought conditions, coupled with record-breaking temperatures and strong winds, created extreme fire danger across the region.

Multiple bushfires ignited and rapidly spread throughout the Shire, threatening lives, property, and critical infrastructure. Residents were urged to evacuate, with emergency services issuing warnings about the imminent danger posed by the fires. Firefighters from across the state and country were deployed to battle the blazes, facing unprecedented challenges in containing the fires due to their intensity and scale.

The bushfires of 2019-2020 resulted in tragic loss of life, extensive property damage, and significant environmental destruction, leaving lasting scars on the landscape and community. The unprecedented nature of these bushfires sparked national conversations about climate change, fire management strategies, and community resilience in the face of increasingly severe fire seasons.

Narrabri’s Fire and Rescue team was awarded the NSW Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation for its efforts during the 2019/20 bushfires.


In 2023, Narrabri Shire faced a severe bushfire that had significant impacts on the region. The bushfire season was characterised by prolonged drought conditions, high temperatures, and strong winds. In early December a bushfire ignited due to lightning strikes.

The fire known as the Duck Creek fire quickly spread through the dry vegetation, fuelled by gusty winds, and rapidly grew in size and intensity. Emergency services from across the state were quickly mobilised to respond to the blaze, but the extreme fire conditions made containment efforts challenging. Residents in the path of the fire were issued evacuation orders, and emergency shelters were opened to accommodate those displaced by the flames.

Despite the efforts of firefighters and emergency responders, the fire exhibited significant runs on various days, moving large distances in multiple directions. Widespread smoke and ash impacted air quality and visibility. It breached control lines and posed a serious threat to homes, farms, and infrastructure.

The Duck Creek fire was declared a Section 44 “State of Emergency”. The fire was described by those at the RFS Control Centre in Narrabri, as “erratic”, “unpredictable”, and “bizarre fire behaviour”.

The fire burnt more than 138,000 hectares of the Pilliga Forest, at its peak on Tuesday, December 19, breaching containment lines along the borders of the Pilliga Forest.

The bushfire of 2023 prompted a coordinated response from local, state, and national agencies, with resources being deployed to support firefighting efforts and assist affected communities. Mutual aid agreements were activated, bringing additional firefighting crews and equipment to the region to help contain the blaze.


Droughts in the 1900s

Severe droughts occurred in 1946-47, 1964, and 1983. The continued dry weather of the 1990s marked what has been termed “Australia’s worst drought since settlement”.

From 1978, a dry spell extended into the early 1980s, locally named the ’83 drought. Many reservoirs dried up, adding to the situation for not only farmers but also residents of the Shire’s towns and villages, as reports indicated declining underground aquifers.

With hay reserves depleted, farmers had to import hay from southern NSW and Victoria. Fortunately, the drought broke in most of the district by April 1983.

When the 1993-94 drought showed no signs of relenting, measures were taken to implement a cloud seeding program. A $100,000 grant was earmarked for cloud seeding in October 1994. This marked the first instance of drought assistance being provided to farmers in the region, prompting the establishment of collections in metropolitan areas to provide relief to farming families.

The cloud seeding program involved releasing chemical agents into clouds to stimulate precipitation. Though controversial, it was seen as a necessary measure to alleviate the devastating effects of the prolonged drought. Additionally, community organisations and charities combined efforts to provide support to affected farmers, including food donations, financial assistance, and mental health services to combat the emotional toll of the crisis. 

Millennium Drought:

The Millennium Drought, starting in the late 1990s, had long-lasting impacts on Narrabri Shire and much of eastern Australia due to exceptionally low rainfall and high temperatures. The drought brought widespread water shortages, agricultural losses, and environmental degradation to the region.

Rivers and water sources dried up, and reduced groundwater levels placed a strain on rural communities. Farmers faced difficult decisions about whether to continue farming or sell off livestock due to dwindling feed and water supplies.

The economic impacts of the drought were felt across the region, with reduced agricultural productivity and increased financial stress on businesses and households. 

Drought of 2002-2003:

The drought of 2002-2003 was one of the most severe droughts to impact Narrabri Shire in recent history. Below-average rainfall and high temperatures reduced water supplies, dried-up rivers, and parched farmland across the region.

The agricultural sector, which relies heavily on rainfall for irrigation and livestock grazing, was particularly hard hit. There was lower-than-average crop yields as the drought persisted for several consecutive years. Farmers struggled to feed and water their livestock, leading to financial losses and hardship for rural communities.

Water restrictions were imposed, and government assistance programs were introduced to support affected farmers and businesses. 

Tinderbox Drought of 2018-2019:

In 2018-2019, Narrabri Shire experienced another significant drought event. With below-average rainfall and ongoing dry conditions, the drought intensified over the year, with lower water sources, and agricultural production declining. Farmers struggled as crops failed and livestock suffered from lack of feed and water.

Water restrictions were imposed, and government assistance programs were rolled out to support affected farmers and communities. The social and psychological toll of the drought was also evident, with increased stress and anxiety among residents facing financial hardship and uncertainty about the future. 


Narrabri Courier news article from 2022 on the history of flooding in Narrabri Shire

Narrabri Courier Flood History Article.pdf(PDF, 493KB)

Flood of 1955:

The flood of 1955 stands out as one of the most significant flooding events in the history of Narrabri Shire. In late February and early March 1955, heavy rainfall fell across the region, causing the Namoi River to breach its banks.

The flood waters submerged farmland, residential areas, and local infrastructure across the Shire. The town of Narrabri itself experienced widespread flooding, with homes and businesses inundated. Emergency services worked tirelessly to evacuate residents to safety, often using boats to navigate the flooded streets.

The flood of 1955 resulted in extensive damage to homes, crops, roads, and bridges, causing significant disruption to the community.

Rebuilding efforts took months, and the event remains etched in the collective memory of Narrabri Shire residents as a reminder of the destructive power of flooding.

Flood of 1971:

Another notable flooding event occurred in 1971 when heavy rainfall once again led to the swelling of the Namoi River and widespread flooding across Narrabri Shire. The flood waters inundated low-lying areas, causing extensive damage to properties, infrastructure, and agricultural land.

Homes and businesses were evacuated, and emergency shelters were set up to accommodate displaced residents. The flood of 1971 disrupted transportation networks, with roads and bridges rendered impassable by the rising waters. The agricultural sector suffered significant losses, with crops destroyed and livestock displaced. 

Flood of 2012:

In March 2012, Narrabri Shire experienced another significant flooding event following heavy rainfall in the region. The Namoi River once again overflowed its banks, submerging low-lying areas and inundating homes, farms, and businesses. The towns and villages were severely affected, with residents forced to evacuate as flood waters rose rapidly.

Emergency services conducted rescue operations to assist those stranded by the rising waters, prioritising the safety of vulnerable individuals. The flood of 2012 caused widespread damage to infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and utilities, disrupting normal life in the community for weeks. 

Floods of 2022:

In 2022, Narrabri Shire faced significant flooding events due to ongoing heavy rainfall and overflowing of the Namoi River and other waterways in the region. The floods of 2022 were particularly impactful, causing widespread devastation across the shire. Multiple rainfall events saturated the soil, leading to runoff into the river systems.

The Namoi River reached flood levels (minor, moderate and major) multiple times, inundating low-lying areas. The town of Narrabri and surrounding communities experienced severe flooding, with homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure submerged in water. Emergency services, including local authorities, volunteers, and rescue teams, worked tirelessly to evacuate residents and provide essential services to those affected.

The flooding of 2022 resulted in significant damage to properties, agricultural land, and infrastructure, disrupting lives and livelihoods in the region. The aftermath of the flood required extensive clean-up and rebuilding efforts, with communities coming together to support one another during the recovery process.

The recovery and rebuilding process was long and challenging, requiring concerted efforts from government agencies, community organisations, and volunteers to restore the affected areas.

The flood of 2022 serves as a stark reminder of the ongoing vulnerability of Narrabri Shire to extreme weather events and the importance of disaster preparedness and resilience in mitigating their impact. 


 *Narrabri Creek October 2022


* Duck Creek Fire (Pilliga Forest) December 2023