5 January 2020

ACT firefighters reinforce the border as pressure on electricity grid eases

| Dominic Giannini
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Smoke obscuring the Australian-American Memorial in Russell. Photo: Region Media

ACT firefighters have partnered with NSW firefighters to help suppress bushfires burning to the south-west of the ACT, as strike teams and reinforcements have been sent to help prepare the border for an emergency.

Spot fires continue to burn near the Territory’s southern border, close to the remote area of the Namadgi National Park, but have not crossed into the ACT, the Emergency Services Agency (ESA) says.

The nearest rural residential property to the fire activity is still 25km away as firefighters prepare containment lines and use police drones to mitigate the fire threat posed to the ACT.

No homes in the ACT are under threat.

ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan says new technology like the Firebird 100 helicopter, with an infrared camera, has helped to increase the ACT’s situational awareness this season, while ACT firefighters are being deployed in NSW to help stop the spread of the blaze.

“[The Firebird] has been deployed regularly, but it has not in the last 24 hours due to extensive smoke,” she said.

“We have three strike teams in NSW at the moment. These strike teams consist of five crews and a commander.

“Overall we have deployed over 1800 personnel days into NSW in response to the fire this season.”

Crews in a heavy tanker consist of four people while medium tankers have three.

Commissioner Whelan says crews are on the front foot and are taking precautionary measures to secure the ACT, including sending strike teams into NSW and building containment lines along the border.

“At the moment we have containment lines to the west of the ACT border, down near the Brest and Clear Hill fire trails and we have, in terms of forward planning, started to develop some containment lines just inside our border,” she said.

“With these favourable conditions, we will continue to assess that on a daily basis. That is part of being alert, not alarmed and is a part of the forward-leaning activities we have been undertaking in these last several days to do as much as we can now to prepare ourselves.

“If we do not get fire, then it does not matter. Preparation is something that cannot be underestimated, and will certainly value-add if those fires do encroach on our borders.”

Fire map as of 2pm Sunday, 5 January. Photo: Fires Near Me.

As of this morning, conditions have eased for the Adaminaby Complex fire, just south of the Namadgi National Park following the southerly change, which is currently more than 12,000 hectares in size and out of control. The alert level is at ‘Advice’.

Firefighters are being assisted by heavy plant machinery as they continue to work on slowing the spread of the fire.

The thick smoke has also been setting off Automatic Fire Alarms (AFAs) across Canberra, with ACT Fire and Rescue responding to over 200 incidents last night alone [Saturday, 4 January], and it is likely this will continue as smoke remains.

Although there has been little change on the NSW fireground near the border, the ACT’s electricity supply situation has improved from last night, after the ESA advised residents to switch off non-essential items to keep the overall system secure.

Extensive bushfire activity in the Snowy Mountains and other areas of New South Wales have had an impact on electricity supplies after transmission lines were lost in the snowy region.

The cooler weather has helped to ease electricity demand and there is now a considerable reserve in NSW and the ACT, the ESA says.

However, the South Coast is still experiencing power outages, which will hopefully be fixed today the NSW Minister for Energy and Environment, Matt Kean, says while anticipated damage around Tumbarumba is hindering restoration efforts there.

Canberrans are still being urged to be conscious of their electricity consumption during periods of extreme weather and to turn off appliances if they are not needed.

Tips for reducing energy consumption include making sure pool pumps are off, setting air conditioners to 24 or 25 degrees, not using washing machines, dishwashers or dryers and turning off appliances and lights in rooms that are not being used.

The ESA will inform the community if the situation changes over the next 24 hours.

Information and alerts will be provided via the ESA website (esa.act.gov.au), NSW Fires Near Me app, ESA social media channels and local media outlets.

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Capital Retro9:05 am 06 Jan 20

A bush/grass fire has broken out this morning at Hospital Hill, Boboyan Road, Booth.

This is within the ACT.

Capital Retro5:56 pm 06 Jan 20

THis fire is now rated “out of control” and another has broken out at Mt Morgan to the west.

HiddenDragon8:15 pm 05 Jan 20

The Adaminaby Complex is still shown as “out of control” as of late afternoon/early evening on Sunday 5 January – the reported size of that fire complex has grown by more than 20% since the same time yesterday –


When this is all over (and well before the next fire season), fuel loads within suburban Canberra must be addressed very seriously and not dismissed as a safety threat on the basis of cherry-picked “evidence” of fire behaviour from past fires – after all, we are regularly told that we are in “uncharted territory”.

We certainly are in unchartered territory although this has been predicted because of climate change. Fuel loads always need to be managed as part of a fire preventative strategy. However unfortunately the changing climate has made the period of fuel hazard reduction very narrow. We can only address this as part of the overall climate change strategy.

Australia could stop all carbon emissions tomorrow and it would make no difference. Stop pushing this ridiculous wheelbarrow and using a national disaster to push this agenda.

Large amounts of damage could have been avoided if clearing land near houses wasn’t a circus. The guy in Gippsland who got fined 25k last year for “illegal land clearing” AKA removing the trees within 100m of his house, whos house survived the fire last week because those trees were absent is a great example of how these policies are dangerous. Clearing land surrounding houses or towns should be exempt from requiring permits that are rarely issued.

Hi grim123, To address the cause of the extensive bushfires we need to look at the science, That isn’t politics by the way, it’s science. For example if suddenly there was a mass disease outbreak as well as treating sick people and ensuring there was sufficient medical staff to address the effect of the outbreak we would also need to look at what caused it and how this can be addressed. Also you may not be aware but extensive hazard reduction burns were undertaken in both NSW and Victoria; it doesn’t stop what is going in now, the cause of which is, unfortunately, climate change. And, yes, we definitely need to reduce emissions (mitigation) as well as being prepared for the inevitable longer and more extreme fire seasons (adaptation). It’s not pushing an agenda mate, it’s just facing reality.

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