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Canberra on high alert as South Coast bushfire crisis deepens

Michael Weaver 2 January 2020 89
Tomakin resident

A resident of Tomakin waits as the bushfires approach on 31 December 2019. Photo: Cath Blythe.

A state of alert in the ACT has been issued by the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) this afternoon (2 January).

The ESA commissioner and emergency controller in the ACT, Georgeina Whelan, said the state of alert has been issued ahead of worsening fire conditions expected on Saturday.

“We’re asking people to be alert but not alarmed as the situation unfolds in the next 72 hours,” Ms Whelan said.

“As a community, we must all be prepared ahead of more extreme weather conditions that are forecast for the ACT and our surrounding region in the coming days.

“The state of alert that has been put in place will ensure our emergency services are able to be as responsive as possible to any risks of bushfire in the coming days.”

Evacuation orders have already been issued in Thredbo and the Snowy Mountains area, along with an exodus of people leaving the NSW South Coast.

An incident control centre has been established and resources have been readied to ensure any major outbreaks of fire in the ACT can be contained.

There are currently active fires burning to the west and south of Canberra near Tumut and in the Kosciuszko National Park.

Farmers and livestock managers in south-east NSW have also been urged to prepare properties and move stock where possible, ahead of severe fire danger predicted for Saturday.

The warning is for the Monaro Alpine, Southern and Central Ranges, and Southern Slopes areas.

Bermagui Road

Bermagui Road on 2 January. Photo: Lisa Herbert

Meanwhile, motels in Canberra and Queanbeyan, carparks around Lake Burley Griffin and the welcoming homes of strangers are being used by people who have evacuated ahead of worsening fire conditions on Saturday.

bushfire emergency accommodation in Canberra Facebook group has been set up by concerned Canberrans offering accommodation to those leaving the South Coast or Snowy Mountains.

The Queanbeyan, Bungendore and Braidwood showgrounds are available for people travelling from fire-affected areas requiring transit accommodation. They opened at 11:30 am this morning and will remain open until further notice.

The showgrounds are also animal evacuation sites.

Queanbeyan and Bungendore showgrounds have free basic accommodation options. No bookings are required and people using the sites are asked to be considerate of other users. Those with caravans and animals are asked to phone the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council on 1300 735 025.

In the ACT, an evacuation centre has been established at Dickson College.

Moruya IGA

Empty fridge shelves Moruya IGA on 2 January. Photo: Alex Rea

On the NSW south coast, Bermagui is all but deserted, while in Moruya, those staying are preparing for the worst as fire fronts continue to burn north and south of the town.

Accommodation options are limited for people arriving from bushfire-affected areas due to an increase in visitors to the ACT this weekend for Summernats, which began today.

There are also vans and trailers in the carparks along Lake Burley Griffin.

A young couple from Merimbula who didn’t wish to be named said they would stay in their van for as long as needed.

Evacuees at Lake Burley Griffin

People are utilising space along Lake Burley Griffin after evacuating from the south coast on 2 January. Photo: Michael Weaver, Region Media.

On the south coast, the Eurobodalla Shire Council said all visitors must leave Eurobodalla as soon as possible.

“It is in their best interests and the accommodation and other scant resources are needed for our residents. Roads are open to the south and north and fuel is available. Please leave immediately.

“Accommodation providers should ask holidaymakers to leave your premises immediately and return home. Your rooms will be needed to accommodate displaced residents. You will be paid for their use,” said the Council via Facebook.

Police are reminding those leaving the South Coast and Snowy Mountains areas to be patient as road closures and traffic diversions are periodically being put in place due to fires.

The State Emergency Operations Controller, Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys, said conditions are continuously changing and sections of roads closing and opening periodically as the fire emergency continues.

“The NSW Police Force and the NSW Rural Fire Service are working to maintain safe travel passages for people in Southern NSW, but fires are impacting some of these routes,” Deputy Commissioner Worboys said.

Up to the minute information about road closures is available at

The community is also reminded that the Public Information and Inquiry Centre is open to assist members of the public in relation to bush fire information for these areas. Call 1800 227 228.

Information specifically relating to the bushfires can be obtained by contacting the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or online via the Rural Fire Service website.

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89 Responses to Canberra on high alert as South Coast bushfire crisis deepens
Cath Blyth Cath Blyth 6:50 pm 03 Jan 20

This is my photo of my cousin. Sadly the subject of this photo has been robbed. Her house was miraculously saved against the odds but when she returned her house had been broken into and everything trashed or stolen. This includes her sons new bike, chainsaw, saddles and more. They even stole her water pump and drained her water tanks. Very angry!!

Evahn Derkley Evahn Derkley 5:59 pm 03 Jan 20

at least we sent all the pollies home so we can accept refugees again :)

Treasure Hussein Treasure Hussein 12:15 pm 03 Jan 20

Stay safe guys

Jude Beck Jude Beck 11:13 am 03 Jan 20

All good, hope you are well too xx

Julie Hadgett Julie Hadgett 11:10 am 03 Jan 20

Stay safe Jude Beck this is the worst ever I read that Amanda has to stay at work. I hope all of you are ok 💕💕💕

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 6:56 am 03 Jan 20

Parking inspectors need to back off in areas where people are seeking shelter. Also. ACT Parks needs to leave public toilet facilities open 24/7 and ensure public bbqs are working for those that have retreated. For Canberra properties, the Emergency Services should have already positioned fire fighting trailers on the suburban fringes but I have yet to see this happen in Lanyon which may be the first to be hit should the fires approach from south

    Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 7:36 am 03 Jan 20

    Funny is it Valarie?

    Terri O'Leary Terri O'Leary 7:17 pm 04 Jan 20

    Cary Elliot Johnson our trailer is ready for action in Gordon

Evelyn Carey Evelyn Carey 6:45 am 03 Jan 20

Stay safe xx

Sharmani Hanwella Sharmani Hanwella 3:03 am 03 Jan 20

Praying that you all will have some rain n that the fires can be contained.

Kate Flaherty Kate Flaherty 1:33 am 03 Jan 20

Can someone tell me how I can help by making sandwiches for emergency evacuees hauling to/through Canberra over next few days? I live right near Dickson College. I want to help.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:03 pm 03 Jan 20

    You will have to first get all the appropriate licenses from the local government authorities, take out public liability insurance etc.

Lorraine Welling Lorraine Welling 9:08 pm 02 Jan 20

Accommodation options are limited for people arriving from bushfire-affected areas due to an increase in visitors to the ACT this weekend for Summernats, which began today. ACT Government YOU ARE A DISGRACE! You cancelled NY celebrations in the city because of the extreme weather but now we have extreme weather AND extreme fire danger and you allow Summernats to go ahead with accommodation being booked out by petrolheads rather than providing it for those that have or potentially will lose everything!!! Just how incompetent can you be????

    Stephan Laub Stephan Laub 9:43 pm 02 Jan 20

    Lorraine Welling except bookings for summernats were probably made early last year and in the months leading up to January, you know, before there was a threat.

    Lorraine Welling Lorraine Welling 9:44 pm 02 Jan 20

    Stephan Laub this is an emergency. Cancel the bookings. These people have, or may, lose everything. Far more important to look after them.

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 11:32 pm 02 Jan 20

    Don't let facts get in the way of your hysteria Lorraine. NY was a government run event, which they cancelled. Summernats is not. A quick search online will show you that there is accommodation available in Canberra and the region if needed, and they have advertised temp emergency accommodation for those that need it and feel like roughing it. But I'd suggest many of the people leaving the coast are the tourists who will return to their homes... This is what the RFS wanted. But I'm sure anyone displaced from the coast will be happy for you to offer them a place for the night.

    Trevor Mobbs Trevor Mobbs 12:04 am 03 Jan 20

    Summernats is a private event. The only thing that's disgraceful is you expecting the government to cancel other people's events as well as their own. It makes about as much sense as yelling at Qantas when a Woolworths supermarket closes.

    Plus you want private hotels to be run by the government too.

John Boland John Boland 9:05 pm 02 Jan 20

wheres andrew barr?? oh thats right, he's on holidays whilst the ACT is in crisis and left an A/g minister in charge... kinda just like scomo but without all the outrage...

    Lorraine Welling Lorraine Welling 9:10 pm 02 Jan 20

    John Boland Barr brings a whole new meaning to the word incompetent!

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 11:44 pm 02 Jan 20

    Nothing like turning everything into tokenist political argument. Reality is neither Scomo or Barr being present will assist to put out a fire or to get rid of the smoke. If it makes you feel better having them around, you're focusing your attention on the wrong thing. In any case, Barr is returning early tomorrow before Saturdays 'high risk' day. He may indeed be incompetent, now is not the time to try and convince you otherwise; but name calling at this point achieves nothing and is immature. How about putting your energy into popping around to your neighbours tomorrow, checking up on them and seeing if they have their bushfire plan ready to go.

    Sy Yollata Sy Yollata 8:34 am 03 Jan 20

    John Boland well pointed out john and not token political statement but rather a valid observation. Seems the same level of criticism by the media of ScoMo is not applicable to a politician from the left. Having said that, the last person I would want with a hose in his hand or making critical decisions is Barr. So maybe we should all chip in and buy him a ticket back to where he came from. Can’t wait until October

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 9:33 am 03 Jan 20

    Observation maybe, but not like for like. Scomo left for holidays during a crisis, Barr is already on holidays and returning before our crisis day on Saturday. As I've stated, I don't care if either are here or not, the machinery of Gov progresses or doesn't with or without them. But point scoring should at least be correct.

    Peter Mackay Peter Mackay 10:24 am 03 Jan 20

    Well, what do you expect from people whose house has just burnt down? They aren’t going to be thinking proper.

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch 11:48 am 03 Jan 20

    Well I think I have been clear that I am speaking for myself and that I have acknowledged some people evidently like to see the PM with the people. As for leadership, I'd prefer someone qualified leading the response to a disaster, not a politician. For him to be seen touring fire devastation at Cobargo yesterday, would have used resources (ie RFS people to brief him etc), id prefer those resources be used more productively. I'd prefer less visibility from politicians, and more just getting on with making sure that the states have what they need, local government is consulted about funding for recovery and Centrelink is resourced so disaster funding is promptly provided. Less tokenism, more doing.

    Sy Yollata Sy Yollata 3:16 pm 03 Jan 20

    Brent Hutch Brent Hutch . Your point is a valid one, however i think the original point was the hypocrisy of the media attacking one side for not being here ( which now includes JB from NSW

    Being away but now coming back) to the crickets associated with Barr being away.

    The issue is a biased and unbalanced media deciding who is to be attacked and who isn’t at a time when houses burn. The media has used the fires as a political point scoring opportunity.

    As I am apolitical I just observe but the one sided coverage and criticism is obvious it’s as easy to see as ABC123.

Tuipeatau Anthony Tuipeatau Anthony 8:42 pm 02 Jan 20

Stay informed with the ‘Fires Near Me NSW’ app

    Andrew Jack Andrew Jack 9:29 pm 02 Jan 20

    Tuipeatau Anthony I would if they were up to date

    Tuipeatau Anthony Tuipeatau Anthony 9:35 pm 02 Jan 20

    Andrew Jack that’s a fair point and I’m using this app plus other sources for information.

Vlad Morgado Vlad Morgado 8:27 pm 02 Jan 20

Stay safe Canberrans

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 8:24 pm 02 Jan 20

Btw burning tyres are toxic and carcinogenic and that is the whole point of burnouts - burning tyres on cars

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 8:23 pm 02 Jan 20

Not to mention the chaos of Summernats fireworks and burnouts amidst 42 degree heat and 20 knot winds and a southerly buster bring the fire to the south of Canberra when firefighter will be needed at summernats

    Craig Rogerson Craig Rogerson 8:54 pm 02 Jan 20

    Julie Patricia Smith obviously a Debbie Downer I very much doubt there will be fire works at the nats this year. Another boring soul using any excuse to rid Act of yet another event

Jill Lefrancois Jill Lefrancois 7:58 pm 02 Jan 20

stop selling all the water to industry, make them build desal plants and pipelines inland

Peter Major Peter Major 7:24 pm 02 Jan 20

Canberra is under active threat from the south west and west.

Have a plan be packed, have an escape route and leave early

Ingrid Mears Ingrid Mears 7:21 pm 02 Jan 20

Let's hope that this won't happen! 🥺

Liyana Tai Liyana Tai 7:13 pm 02 Jan 20

Tung Anh Ng here more info

    Tung Anh Ng Tung Anh Ng 8:23 pm 02 Jan 20

    Liyana Tai so extra points for residency yea 😂😂 jk but evacuation just sounds so desperate 😢

Harriet French Harriet French 7:08 pm 02 Jan 20

Elyssa O'Rafferty 😥😥 stay safe petal xx

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