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

Genevieve Jacobs 4 January 2020 35
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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35 Responses to ACT is ready for risk, all fire activity is being carefully monitored as record temps hit
Christie Horsfield Christie Horsfield 7:35 pm 06 Jan 20

Amazing leader

You are doing an amazing job Georgina

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:24 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.

    JC JC 7:32 pm 04 Jan 20

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

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 3:15 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.

Kathy Schneider Kathy Schneider 4:11 pm 04 Jan 20

This sounds eerily similar to the assurances in 2013.

Hannah Zurcher Hannah Zurcher 3:42 pm 04 Jan 20

James Ansell just for update reasons, no stress

Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 3:14 pm 04 Jan 20

Kudos to Georgeina Whelan, who has shown excellent leadership - through her organization, communication and empathy.

Kerstin Oberprieler Kerstin Oberprieler 3:12 pm 04 Jan 20

This is a great example of leadership and being prepared, and helping the community take action. Well done ESA

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 3:42 pm 04 Jan 20

    Kerstin Oberprieler yeah I think the lesson they learned from 2003 was well learned. The experts run the show now and they do it well.

Peter Major Peter Major 2:54 pm 04 Jan 20

Watch out for arsonists, the vermin are everywhere

Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 2:45 pm 04 Jan 20

I am yet to be able to find any possible evacuation points for people if they do have to evacuate. I am not in Canberra currently but have lots of family who are. In NSW they have "safe places" where people can go to be protected and we know clearly where all evacuation points are (local show grounds and selected schools). I have seen many people ask where they will go if there is a fire, many don't know which can cause panic and lead to people either not leaving due to no where to go or cause erratic behavior due to not knowing where to do before leaving the house

    Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 2:50 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris In 2003, the colleges were opened as evac centres too. They will announce this if it is required (fb, abc666, news24)

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 2:55 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris Official evacuation centres will be established and announced if required.

    Chanelle Fyve Chanelle Fyve 2:56 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris Dickson College and Queanbeyan Showgrounds are evacuation places.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 2:59 pm 04 Jan 20

    In nsw we have set evacuation points so I'm my little town I know our show ground in out main evacuation point but them the primary school just down the road of our house is also I listed safe place so if we can't get to the show ground then we go to the school. We have these written in our fire plan. So we aren't trying to find out where to go in an emergency as we know before the emergency even happens.

    Jess McLarty Jess McLarty 3:02 pm 04 Jan 20

    They have plans to open schools as evacuation centres and will announce which ones as soon as it's required based on the location of the threat

    Susan Anderson Susan Anderson 3:05 pm 04 Jan 20

    Jess yes exactly!

    Jodie Robinson Jodie Robinson 3:06 pm 04 Jan 20

    Canberra is a small city but not that small to have only 2 evacuation points. Evacuation points have not been announced as it is not required and dependent on the location of the fire - but it is general knowledge here that the colleges and showgrounds (barring epic), as well as some malls, are safe spots.

    Jessica Grace Jessica Grace 3:10 pm 04 Jan 20

    Dickson college has evacuation sign outside of it.

    Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 3:13 pm 04 Jan 20

    Jodie All the colleges are on standby to become evacuation centres should the need arise - depending on from where the threat arises.

    Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 3:13 pm 04 Jan 20

    Jessica Grace that's for south coast people.

    Christine Johnston Christine Johnston 3:15 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris They need to know where fire is coming from before they announce. There will be plans in place.

    Jessica Grace Jessica Grace 3:16 pm 04 Jan 20

    Jane hardly anyone is there. So it could be used for Canberra people too

    Kim Elms Kim Elms 3:18 pm 04 Jan 20

    Christine Johnston yup. Georgina Whelan spoke of this yesterday in the media conference. The evacuation centers are dependent upon the direction of the threat. No point opening Stromlo high (for example) if the threat is coming from Stromlo

    Ali James Ali James 3:43 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris and we will also know because the ESA will tell us what to do. They aren't just leaving it to chance you know

    Jayne Denise Jayne Denise 3:49 pm 04 Jan 20

    Jessica Grace I'm sure it could but we are not evacuating yet.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 3:52 pm 04 Jan 20

    I don't think people really under stand what I am trying to say. In nsw we have set evacuation points, this way people can plan how to get their ect. I am not staying open these right now I am staying let people know these are the evacuation points and the appropriate ones will be open if needed. I was in the 2003 bushfire and we had no idea where to go, power was out and the radio kept going out. At least when we had our bush fires in North nsw where I now live earlier inn the fire season at least we knew where we could go.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 3:54 pm 04 Jan 20

    All I am doing is asking for possible evacuation points so people who plan to leave early can.

    Alison Brittliff Alison Brittliff 4:14 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris there is one Eva I entre for people being evacuated from the south coast, at Dickson college

    But no need for act residents to evacuate as no fires in the act

    Alison Brittliff Alison Brittliff 4:15 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris Canberra has a number of roads in and out

    Points will be established depending on where the fires are

    With over $400k people we’ll have more than one point

    Tania Shaw Tania Shaw 4:19 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie we understand your question and i can see yoi are anxious and some certainty would help. Basicly the ACT does not work that way. Evac centres will be notified if they are needed but are not notified until there is a need for people to consider evacuating.

    Natalie Porter Natalie Porter 5:01 pm 04 Jan 20

    Brenda Rae Brenda Rae 5:23 pm 04 Jan 20

    Natalie Ferris they will

    Be dependent on where the threat occurs , that’s why they are not published , there will be information in which places will he stood up when necessary

Mary McCallum Mary McCallum 2:40 pm 04 Jan 20

Wow what a leader we have in the ACT - well done to her

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