Bushfire threatens suburbs as state of emergency declared in Canberra

·Assistant News Editor
·4-min read

A state of emergency has been declared in the ACT as Canberra faces its biggest bushfire threat in 17 years.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr made the announcement at a press conference around midday on Friday, stressing the need for people in the nation’s capital to be prepared to act if required.

While no homes or property are currently under threat, the 18,000-hectare Orroral Valley Fire fire in the Namadgi National Park is dangerously close to threatening homes in the capital's southern suburbs.

The fire is about 9km from the capital's southern outskirts and 3km from the southern township of Tharwa.

As of 3pm the fire which includes Boboyan, Apollo and Top Naas roads is at emergency level.

The advice told affected residents the safest option was to leave immediately before it was too dangerous to drive. The safest route out of the area is north using Naas Road towards Tharwa and Canberra.

“The ACT is now facing the worst bushfire threat since the devastating fires of 2003,” Mr Barr told reporters earlier on Friday.

“The combination of extreme heat, wind and a dry landscape will place suburbs at Canberra's south at risk in coming days.”

The fire is at “watch and act” level.

Predictive mapping released by the ACT Emergency Services Agency shows the potential danger facing Canberra as the fire continues to grow this weekend.

“This fire may become very unpredictable. It may become uncontrollable,” Mr Barr said.

Predictive mapping of the fire this weekend. Source: ACT ESA
Predictive mapping of the fire this weekend. Source: ACT ESA

The image shows the potential spread of the bushfire in the heavily forested national park from Friday to Sunday for the ACT only, the ESA said.

“This image is based on worst-case predictions from multiple fire behaviour scenarios for the ACT and encompasses three days of worst-case modelled bush fire activity based on temperature range, wind variations, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, terrain, and fuel availability,” it said.

The chief minister has told Canberrans, particularly those in the south of Tuggeranong to prepare.

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NSW Rural Fire Service public liaison officer Aaron Howard said the fire is expected to cross the NSW border on Friday afternoon, and crews are preparing to defend properties west of the Monaro Highway.

Canberra temperatures are forecast to exceed 40 degrees on Friday and Saturday. The heat combined with gusty winds sets up dangerous fire conditions for the weekend.

The state of emergency has forced Cricket ACT to cancel matches in Canberra on Saturday.

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ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan warned Friday that the worst is still to come as fire crews face a challenging situation.

“The fire activity is increasing, it has been unpredictable, it remains challenging, it is difficult to access,” she said. “The predictions are that tomorrow will be our worst day.”

Speaking to ABC radio on Friday morning she warned that far south suburbs could be at risk of ember attacks.

“If wind conditions prove to be challenging, we could see suburbs such as Conder, Banks and Gordon come under attack from ember attacks on Saturday afternoon,” she said.

The fire, burning here on the 29th of January, has continued to grow in size. Source: AAP
The fire, burning here on the 29th of January, has continued to grow in size. Source: AAP

Authorities have been warning residents in the area as the fire has grown in recent days.

“These are the areas we have been door-knocking for several days now. What people will see is potentially spot fires continue to be ignited forward of the main body of the fire.”

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