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.”
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.
ALERT: Have just lost transmission lines in snowy region. Expected tight supply situation around 6pm. Asking everyone to reduce unnecessary electricity usage. Please turn off pool pumps, lights in unoccupied rooms and avoid using washing machines and dishwashers.
— Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) January 4, 2020
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.
Currently around 35,000 customers without power on the Sth Coast(31k) and Tumbarumba(4K). Currently doing aerial inspection of lines and subject to damage hope to restore South Coast later today. More damage anticipated around Tumbarumba, so restoration may not be until tomorrow.
— Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) January 4, 2020
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.