4 January 2020

Eye to the west as ACT readies for searing Saturday

| Ian Bushnell
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The queue at the Mugga Way tip

The big clean-up: the queue at the Mugga Way tip on Friday afternoon. Photo: Michael Weaver, Region Media.

ACT emergency authorities are keeping a close watch on fires across the Brindabella ranges threatening Batlow as they reassure ACT residents that all is being done to prepare for any threat of fire on a dangerous Saturday in the region.

While the South Coast is bracing for a repeat of the devastating New Year’s Eve breakouts, the ACT Government has declared a State of Alert and a Total Fire Ban until midnight Saturday, with rising winds, low humidity and a forecast top of 42 degrees. The fire rating will be Extreme.

Chief Fire Officer Joe Murphy says there are no fires burning in the ACT and the big Dunns Road fire encircling Batlow and a smaller one near Adaminaby to the south were about 100 km from the Canberra urban area.

But the winds will fan them to greater size, and the concern is that they will be driven into Namadgi National Park which is bone dry, although modelling suggests they won’t reach the ACT tomorrow.

Mr Murphy told ABC radio that he could not be certain if or when the fires would reach the ACT, but the park had been well prepared with prescribed burns, maintenance of fire trails and water tanks.

Crews were patrolling the urban interface and the ACT was being surveilled from the air to identify any new ignitions.

The change on Saturday also brings with it the chance of a thunderstorm, and lightning strikes in Namadgi.

The aim will be to identify any new fires immediately and respond with force.

“We are ready for whatever tomorrow brings,” Mr Murphy said.

Ten trucks with 25 crew helping to contain the Dunns Road fire would return to the ACT this evening and a full complement of firefighters from all services would be on standby.

Fire spread prediction for Saturday, 4 January 2020.

Fire spread prediction for Saturday, 4 January 2020. Image: NSW RFS

The ACT and NSW were sharing intelligence and the Territory had access to all modelling of the fires to its west.

Emergency Services Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the ACT was well prepared, evacuation centres had been identified and the community would have very good warning of any fire.

“Once we know, we will alert the community,” she said.

For Canberrans braving the hazardous smoky conditions, 10,000 face masks arrived today, with more on the way.

ACT residents are urged to prepare their properties and download their bushfire survival plan form the ESA website.

It seemed many were taking the situation seriously with queues into the Mugga Way tip this afternoon to dump cleared vegetation and other rubbish from around properties.

For people with livestock such as horses, the evacuation points are the Queanbeyan and Hall showgrounds, with Summernats continuing at EPIC.

For more information on the State of Alert visit the ESA website.

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Capital Retro4:45 pm 04 Jan 20

The only threat appears to be the Adaminaby Complex fire which is heading east about 60 kms to Canberra’s south. If the southerly change that’s forecast hits it in the next two hours spotting could be at Lanyon in another 3 hours.

I trust the ESA is onto this because the relevant authorities weren’t on to the potential of the McIntyres Hut in 2003.

HiddenDragon9:40 pm 03 Jan 20

Some reassuring words and – unlike the last time – I assume the ACT won’t be coy about accepting offers of help from across the border if things go bad.

Aside from work in Namadgi etc. and the constant messaging to householders, I am not as confident about what has been done (or not done) on public land within suburban Canberra – which should be a priority given what can happen with ember attacks (not just fires spreading from tree crown to tree crown).

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