Residents across Sydney are being warned to stay indoors after a thick blanket of smoke smothered the city, with hazard reduction burns causing a major drop in air quality.
The smoke is a result of the burns which were conducted over the weekend, drifting and settling over the CBD, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
The haze was so thick it triggered fire alarms across the city, while the NSW Department of Environment issued warnings as the air quality was dropped from “poor to worse” across the city’s north-west, central-east and south-west.
Further burns are scheduled on Monday, with Sydney and Central Coast residents being warned they may continue to see and smell the smoke until at least Wednesday.
The major reductions are occurring at Terrey Hills, Hornsby and Holsworthy.
Concerned locals reported having difficulty sleeping on Sunday night due to the smoke.
The air pollution level in some parts of the nation’s largest city was deemed to be hazardous.
The burns were originally meant to happen on Friday night, but had been postponed until Sunday due to wet weather, according to the RFS.
The Health Department is warning anyone with heart or lung disease, older Australians, young children and pregnant women to try to stay inside as they are vulnerable to the smoke.
“Stay indoors as much as possible with windows and doors closed until outdoor air quality is better,” the The Department of Planning and Environment website says.
“If you feel that the air in your home is uncomfortable, consider going to a place with cleaner air (such as an air-conditioned building like a library or shopping centre) if it is safe to do so.”
Residents are being urged to spend time indoors or in air-conditioning and to avoid rigorous outdoor activity.
The burns come as warm spring weather is predicted for Sydney towards the end of the week, with temperatures expected to reach 30 on Friday and Saturday, according to BOM.
“It’s opportunities like we’re seeing today to do this important hazard reduction work, we need to really take these opportunities when they present themselves,” Inspector Ben Shepherd from the RFS told Sunrise.
A hot and dry spring and summer is being forecast for much of Australia, although an “El Nino” weather event which brings heightened risks of bushfires is yet to be formally declared.
Any residents of “at-risk” bushfire areas were being urged to prepare their homes and have a plan in place in the event of a bushfire.
The controlled burns were conducted in the Sutherland Shire, Ku-ring-gai, the Hawkesbury, Hornsby and the Central Coast.