17 January 2020

Remembering the 2003 bushfires

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2003 firestorm

The 2003 firestorm has painful echoes for many Canberrans. Photo: Scott Masters.

Today our thoughts are with the victims of the 2003 Canberra bushfires.

Every member of the ACT community who lived here 17 years ago was affected in some way by the bushfire crisis. Tragically, four people died, 500 homes were lost and many people were injured and displaced by the disaster.

January 18 has always been a day of reflection for this community but this year, in particular, our feelings will be heightened following the devastation of the NSW and Victorian bushfires, and the poor air quality we have been experiencing.

I would like to remind Canberrans that if you are feeling distressed by the current situation you are not alone. There is support available. It’s important to remember that everyone is different and there is no right or wrong way to respond.

There are many community services that offer counselling and support, and online resources that can give you strategies to help manage distress. You can find these resources here.

We have been proactive in monitoring and managing the bushfire risk near our border in a coordinated way. Since the State of Alert was declared, the ESA has worked closely with NSW Rural Fire Service to strengthen containment lines and give us the best chance possible. We are using all the resources at our disposal, including the Australia Defence Force to respond to this unprecedented situation.

I have been impressed by the dedication of everyone involved in the State of Alert response, and I would like to thank the ACT Emergency Services Agency, and additional personnel from the government, particularly Parks and Conservation staff, and other community organisations, for their commitment to keep Canberrans safe.

To stay up to date and for more tips on how you can prepare for bushfire, check if you live in a bushfire prone area, and for the latest news on emergency incidents visit www.esa.act.gov.au.

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HiddenDragon6:57 pm 19 Jan 20

The Canberra Times today reports that –

“An evacuation plan being prepared for Canberra won’t be made public to avoid confusion if a fire does impact the city and the plan needs to change.”

People can draw their own conclusions about the stated reasons for not making the plan public, but surely the story should have read “has been prepared”.

It is amazing to learn that a government which has talked constantly (notably so in recent weeks) of the importance of household fire plans – typically in the context of “if things get really bad, we can’t help everyone – does not, apparently, already have detailed, finalised plans which have been examined carefully by all who would be responsible for implementing them and war gamed(or whatever the appropriate jargon is) for the various directions from which fire(s) could attack our city.

Jon Stanhope was ACT Chief Minister at the time of the 2003 fires and was awarded a bravery medal for helping in the rescue of a helicopter pilot who had ditched in a dam while water bombing the fires. Jon Stanhope is still around and commenting on ACT affairs. https://www.smh.com.au/national/act-leader-helps-rescue-pilot-20030114-gdg3pl.html

Emily J Rooney4:56 pm 18 Jan 20

For many this will be the most difficult anniversary so far. Connection amongst survivors is so important. Please help us let people know about this group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2003CanberraFirestorm/

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