Whelan warns off disaster tourists clogging streets near fire areas

Ian Bushnell 29 January 2020 22

“If you don’t need to be in an area where there is a fire danger don’t be there stay at home.” – Georgeina Whelan, ESA Commissioner. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

Sightseers who rushed to Canberra’s southern edge on Tuesday to get a closer view of the Orroral Valley bushfire as it threatened Tharwa have been called out by Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan.

On Tuesday, residents complained on social media about the “disaster tourists” who had clogged streets and blocked driveways as they jockeyed for spots that would allow them to take photos of the fires bearing down on Canberra.

The one access road at Lanyon was blocked and one social media post expressed disbelief at the number of people cramming into Point Hutt to watch the fire.

Commissioner Whelan today lashed out at the people causing congestion in order to sticky-beak, telling people to stay away from fire areas if they have no reason to be there.

“We’ve really got to take stock. We have to stop disaster tourism,” she told ABC radio.

“It really gets to a point where it puts puts so many lives in danger and and limits the operational response of our emergency services and our police.

“I’m putting a call out to Canberrans: if you don’t need to be in an area where there is a fire danger don’t be there. Stay at home, stay safe.”

Ms Whelan said a great photo for Instagram is not worth a life nor the risk of slowing down the response of staff and volunteers who are working to keep Canberra safe.

“The spectacular photography that people are all chasing these days – we’re providing regular updates on all our social media channels so I would ask Canberrans to be considerate. Stay home, stay safe and help us keep Canberra safe,” she said.

A shot of the Orroral Valley fire that accompanied an ESA update.

Ms Whelan appealed to photographers to not use the roofs of residents’ homes to ”get that great shot”.

“It is not worth it,” she said.

Mellisa Langerman posted that sightseers were only putting themselves and residents at risk.

“Please from all of us who are right in the line of potential fire. We are stressed enough. We need to have clear roads to evacuate or allow firies or other emergency personnel in the next days or week or so to reach us. Do not come near us if you don’t live here, do not block roads, stay away. This is not a circus or a camera opportunity,” she said.

On social media, Peta Siebert was worried about how people would evacuate if necessary.

“If you don’t need to be out in Banks or Gordon then don’t be. Residents are anxious enough as it is and the people out here sticky beaking are only making it worse,” she posted.

“The top of my narrow street currently resembles a car park! None of the cars parked here live in this street. It’s going to be hard enough getting out of here if we need to in hurry without having to deal with additional traffic. Please think about what you are doing and the impact you’ll have by being here unnecessarily!”

Briony McIntosh posted that the amount of traffic was ”insane” and dangerous because drivers were looking at the fire, not the road.


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22 Responses to Whelan warns off disaster tourists clogging streets near fire areas
GrumpyMark GrumpyMark 12:51 pm 30 Jan 20

@Clinton Berry “no there shouldn’t be a law against it, what next a law against free thought?”
With a comment like that, it’s obvious you have never been endowed with thought, free or otherwise. Do you seriously think that people should be allowed to just stroll on into a disaster area purely for the sake of copping a gander at what’s going on? If you are actually one of these disaster tourists, rather than simply promoting some warped kind of civil libertarian stance, you need to get a life.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 11:47 am 30 Jan 20

The main roads down south are pretty limited and mostly single lane. Remember when they upgraded the Sewer pipe on Tharwa Dr and caused 90 minute delays for 100m of road.

Not sure if the roads of Tuggeranong could cope with an evacuation order for its 85,000 residents. Particularly south of Kambah/Wanniassa whose residents have pretty good access to Parkway, Athlon and Yamba.


Gavin Davey Gavin Davey 2:59 am 30 Jan 20

I lived out there 2003 and the same thing happened the blocked off Weston Creek and not us you could hardly move on Lanyon Drive and emergency vehicls need to get south to Lanyon Homestead and Tharwa it nearly got out of control 🤬🙄🐨😎

Jennifer Crawford Jennifer Crawford 10:39 pm 29 Jan 20

There were crowds of people hanging around at the roundabout that the police had closed off at Tharwa Drive 😳

Eliza Kate Atkinson Eliza Kate Atkinson 8:00 pm 29 Jan 20

This is so ridiculous. There are people driving up stromlo to look. Good luck if it gets hit by ember attack while you're up there!

People just don't think.

Phones are great - but the obsessive need for social media photos is literally risking lives.

    Jenny Bolin Jenny Bolin 8:24 pm 29 Jan 20

    Eliza Atkinson Even worse are the people clogging up the roads in areas where people might be needing to evacuate!

    Eliza Kate Atkinson Eliza Kate Atkinson 9:10 pm 29 Jan 20

    Jenny Bolin too true

Ashley Latimer Ashley Latimer 5:10 pm 29 Jan 20

People need to have some respect, grow TF up.

Missy Norman Missy Norman 4:27 pm 29 Jan 20

I dont understand people like this... I mean theres natural curiousity I get it (not the time at all for it) and then theres walking straight into the inferno and making it so difficult for everyone plus putting your own life at risk for what? A photo?

    Missy Norman Missy Norman 4:40 pm 29 Jan 20

    Julie Delves I wasn't being literal but given how quickly the fire fronts can change course it is kind of apt since the people could be prevented from getting out. Not being literal in my original comment though

Frank Trapani Frank Trapani 4:16 pm 29 Jan 20

Braggers..seeking to get a shot of fame. Keep it up and one of those days it maybe your last shot..

Kerrianne Markulin Kerrianne Markulin 4:15 pm 29 Jan 20

Just like car accidents... elements of the public always think tragedy or emergency is a spectator sport. 🤬

Peter Major Peter Major 4:13 pm 29 Jan 20

Bloody rubber necks and ghouls 🤬

Rob Sanders Rob Sanders 4:08 pm 29 Jan 20

Peak Canberra.

Robert Blake Robert Blake 3:58 pm 29 Jan 20

Idiots why would they want to get in the way

David Berkelmans David Berkelmans 3:56 pm 29 Jan 20

Actual footage of these people’s brains

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 3:55 pm 29 Jan 20

Get the police out there!

    Dan Smith Dan Smith 4:13 pm 29 Jan 20

    Amanda Evans Government needs to fund the police more so they can have enough resources for community policing. At the moment they are not funded other than to collect statistics.

Keran Niquet Keran Niquet 3:19 pm 29 Jan 20

Should be a law against it!

    Kirsty Noad Kirsty Noad 3:55 pm 29 Jan 20

    Keran Niquet couldn't agree more!!!!!

    Michael Blythe Michael Blythe 4:01 pm 29 Jan 20

    Keran Niquet There is....public nuisance and obstructing emergency services. If only that could be extended to include gross stupidity.

    Dale Wheatley Dale Wheatley 4:02 pm 29 Jan 20

    Agreed harsh penalties

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