4 January 2020

ACT is ready for risk, all fire activity is being carefully monitored as record temps hit

| Genevieve Jacobs
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ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan

ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan says that intensive fire risk monitoring is taking place as temperatures climb. Photo: File

The ACT is poised and waiting for any fire emergency today. Ninety-five per cent of fire crews are back at home in the Territory and ready for action as crews undertake 24-hour surveillance, but the ACT is not currently under threat.

ACT temperatures hit an all-time record high at 43.6 degrees at 2.38 pm., then 44 degrees at 4.08pm

Risks will come from a bone-dry Namadgi, and all eyes are on the major fires burning to our west in the Snowy regions.

As of 1:30 pm, the major Dunns Rd fire has been upgraded to emergency level. The fire is burning south of the Snowy Mountains Highway in the Ellerslie Range near Kunama and Laurel Hill towards Talbingo, currently affecting people in the Batlow, Wondalga and Talbingo areas.

Residents are being advised to leave Tumbarumba before it is too late, and patients have been evacuated from the Batlow Hospital. Smaller fires in the Snowy Monaro region including Doubtful Gap rail near Eucumbene and Inaloy rail near Peak View, Numerella, and Countegany are also at emergency level this afternoon.

ESA Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said that intense monitoring is taking place around the clock in consultation with NSW authorities.

“I can assure you that our incident management team and our emergency management arrangements are in place, they are stood up and they are underway,” she said.

“We did have a dry lightning strike just outside our border the other day and we were able to put 14 crews onto that fire within 30 minutes and eliminated it.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr says that by providing support to New South Wales during these fires, the Emergency Services Agency has been protecting the ACT by preventing fires spreading into the Territory and this was particularly the case with fires in Kosciusko National Park.

The Territory government has also been working to support people who are coming to Canberra from the South Coast. Evacuation centres are ready to open in the ACT if required and Dickson College has been used as a respite centre for South Coast evacuees.

The public is also being urged to report any suspicious activities in ACT parks and nature reserves: remarkably, fires have been deliberately lit this week and a man has been charged today with lighting fires in Curtin overnight.

The Chief Minister had also urged Summernats owner and organiser Andy Lopez to cancel the burnouts competition planned for today as “a responsible, mature adult”, given the state of alert in the ACT and community expectations.

But organisers say they will go ahead, citing 60 firefighters on standby and the expectations of fans who have travelled from around the country. They say they are very happy with how the event has been organised.

Temperatures in the ACT reached up to 42 degrees in many areas by 1:00 pm, and the Bureau of Meteorology says that relative humidity across the Territory is below 15 per cent in most areas, characterising current conditions as “very dry”. The Bureau says that temperatures are rapidly increasing across the Territory from north to south, and will continue to be high well into the evening.

While coastal areas are braced for a vigorous southerly that is likely to complicate fire fighting later this afternoon, here we’ll feel only a modest impact from south easterlies in areas east of Canberra. Our winds will remain predominantly northwesterly. Wind speeds are currently sitting around 35-40 km/h across the ACT.

The Bureau says that heavy smoke continues to impact the ACT from the fires burning at Batlow and Tumut in the north and Adaminaby in the south.

ACT residents are urged to prepare their properties and download their bushfire survival plan form the ESA website. ACT State Emergency Service will be out in the community again today helping you to prepare your bushfire plan.

You’ll find them at the following locations from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm:

  • Westfield Belconnen
  • Westfield Woden
  • South.Point Tuggeranong
  • Cooleman Court Shopping Centre, Weston.

Canberrans are also stepping up to help: Canberra Facebook group Bushfire Emergency Accommodation in Canberra is connecting those evacuating from bushfires, including animals and pets, to people in Canberra and the surrounding region.

You can provide support for those evacuating by donating accommodation for people and pets, food, nappies, baby wipes, water and sanitary items, and stopover support including showers, food, drink, washing and rest.

A Canberra Bushfire Support 2020 Facebook group has also been set up to help vulnerable people by cleaning out gutters and removing leaves and other fuel ahead of the coming days of fire risk. They have had a lot of requests for help and urgently require volunteers.

Anglicare and Vinnies are also appealing for support, primarily for cash at this stage. Details of how to donate here.

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Capital Retro6:24 pm 04 Jan 20

The Adaminaby Complex fire which it appears no one is interested in is now only 3 kms from the ACT border.

Why would anyone be overly interested? It poses no immediate danger to the ACT. Yet…

Capital Retro3:15 am 05 Jan 20

It’s closer to Tuggeranong than where you live in Gunghalin so people down here should be overly interested. We are getting thick smoke from it already.

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