ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr and Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan said the entire ACT is prepared and ready, with a fire that is currently less than four kilometres from the Territory’s southern border in remote bushland.
ESA commissioner Georgeina Whelan said they are keeping a very close eye on all borders and beyond as emergency level fires spread to the west and south-west of Canberra.
The Adaminaby Complex Fire is the immediate concern, but Ms Whelan said it posed no threat to homes in the ACT (as of 6:30 pm, 4 January).
“There are currently spot fires from the ACT’s southern border,” Ms Whelan said this evening.
“Fire activity has increased and we are continuing to monitor the situation. There is no current threat to homes in the ACT from this activity [at Adaminaby].
The video below, released by the ESA, shows footage captured by Firebird 100 of spot fires 4km from the southern ACT border near the remote area of the Namadgi National Park.
Ms Whelan said a strike team from the ACT has been deployed to Adaminaby today to assist with fires burning near the Kosciuszko National Park. The strike team will remain there for 12 hours before returning later tonight.
“The nearest property from the spot fires is 25 km, so there is no current threat from these spot fires and we will continue to work to save historic assets in the area.”
The extensive bushfire activity in the Snowy Mountains and other areas of the New South Wales may have an impact on electricity supplies in NSW and the ACT. We are asking all consumers to be mindful of any unnecessary electricity usage. Things you can do: https://t.co/MEwy1tIlV9
— ACT ESA (@ACT_ESA) January 4, 2020
“The deployment will not affect the number of emergency services personnel here in Canberra, as we still have 90 per cent of our personnel available,” Ms Whelan said.
She said smoky conditions would continue to affect Canberra, with a change at about 10:00 pm expected to bring smoke from the east tonight. This smoke would be from the South Coast fires and not those burning to the south of the ACT.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the smoke could last for a number of days and has already spread into Canberra’s hospitals, where ACT Health is working to clear the air
The Chief Minister said he has also written a letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison today about whether payments to volunteer firefighters in other jurisdictions would be offered to volunteers here in the ACT.
“I formally wrote to the Prime Minister today, but it was foreshadowed with his office some time ago about getting payments to those who have volunteered here in the ACT,” Mr Barr said.
“I think we are well prepared but if there is anything further that is needed, either at this level of government or through liaison with the Commonwealth, then we will, of course, ask the Commonwealth for assistance and continue to work closely with NSW if there is anything that is needed there.
“We stand ready to assist as always.
“We have just experienced our hottest ever day. The wind conditions remain very strong, it’s obviously a day of extreme fire danger. Canberra people are experiencing this uncomfortable day. There is a lot of anxiety in the community,” Mr Barr said.
ESA commissioner Ms Whelan said they will continue to monitor conditions with their colleagues in NSW and provide immediate updates on the ESA website, which has had more than 90,000 views to date.
A total fire ban will remain in place in the ACT until midnight tomorrow (5 January).
“ACT residents may see smoke from the Adaminaby fire and the Dunns Road fire to the west as a consequence of its intensity. Please do not be alarmed. We will update you if a fire encroaches into the ACT.”
Ms Whelan said their emergency pop-up centres proved very helpful yesterday and today and will remain in place tomorrow at West Belconnen, Woden, Tuggeranong, Coolamon Court, Dickson and Gungahlin.
“The community is urged to use these pop-ups if they are out and about,” Ms Whelan said.
Pop-up centres are open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the following locations:
- Westfield Belconnen
- Westfield Woden
- South.Point Tuggeranong
- Cooleman Court Shopping Centre, Weston.
Ms Whelen said there are no evacuation centres required in the ACT at this stage, but they would be set up if required.
Ms Whelen also noted that to date, the ESA has undertaken no door-knocking activity in Canberra suburbs.
“We have a number of official people out there in the community giving advice, but we have had no official door-knocking activity in the ACT. We have many emergency services personnel out there and community fire unit personnel checking around the suburbs.
“You will see them in a blue uniform. So, if you have somebody knocking on your door, that is not an ESA activity and I would question the advice that has been given and pass on your concerns to ACT Policing,” Ms Whelan said.
Due to the bushfire crisis, Defence has opened bases from Brisbane to Adelaide for the use of people needing short-term evacuation assistance.
You can seek shelter at any Defence base in an emergency. In the ACT, the HMAS Harman – Gangway, HMAS Harman is available.