ACT prepares to activate full fire alert mode
Volunteer fire fighters are ready for extreme conditions tomorrow. Photo: Melissa Adams
ACT emergency services have declared a Total Fire Ban for the whole of the ACT for 24 hours from midnight on Monday night, as the capital faces fire conditions not seen in years.
ACT ESA confirmed in a statement the forecast fire danger rating for Tuesday is extreme, which means if a fire starts it may be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast-moving.
Outside the territory, NSW Rural Fire Service have issued a catastrophic fire danger rating for the Southern Ranges, which includes Goulburn, Queanbeyan and the Yass Valley.
Emergency services are preparing to move into full alert mode for the severe fire conditions expected across the territory.
The ACT Government will activate the territory's public information coordination centre at the ACT ESA headquarters on Tuesday and extra firefighters will be deployed with the Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire & Rescue and Territory and Municipal Services (TAMS).
Sweltering temperatures and strong winds are forecast to deliver Canberra's worst fire conditions in years and a total fire ban is expected to be in force for at least 24 hours from midnight this evening.
Jeremy Lasek, executive director of culture and communications in the Chief Minister and Treasury directorate, said directorate staff had met with the heads of the ESA, RFS and ACT Ambulance this morning to discuss the picture for the next 48 hours.
“We'll activate our public information coordination centre that's based at the ESA when there's the possibility of an emergency,” he said.
“We'll bring in staff from across the directorates to support the ESA: TAMS, Chief Minister, Health, Canberra Connect.
“It's basically bringing all of the information into one place for dissemination.
“The conditions are looking probably the worst for at least three years, perhaps more.
“Hopefully nothing will happen but these are all excellent opportunities to test our systems and people to make sure they're working for everybody.”
An ESA spokesman said the agency was waiting on formal advice from the Bureau of Meteorology this afternoon before declaring a total fire ban.
“The ACT ESA is on full alert for conditions in the ACT and surrounding region tomorrow,” he said.
“We do expect to have a total fire ban declared from midnight for 24 hours at this stage.
“Being on full alert means we'll have extra resources on shifts across the RFS, ACT Fire & Rescue and also departmental firefighters from TAMS.”
All information regarding the fire risk will be disseminated via the ESA website, with the help of their Twitter and Facebook accounts. Canberratimes.com.au will also provide full updates through the day.
The spokesman said two fires burning in Namadgi National Park at Mount Ginini and Mount Sentry Box were being controlled by fire crews.
Remote Area Firefighting Teams (RAFT) and a waterbombing helicopter were fighting a third fire near Rendezvous Creek that was sparked after lightning strikes on Sunday night.
Eight trees are smouldering over an eight kilometre area.
“We have one helicopter and some raft crews in there who are going to cut down the trees and extinguish the fires and waterbomb the area from there,” the spokesman said.
“The other two fires are being controlled.
“They're in very hard to access areas.”
If a fire starts at the forecast fire danger level of EXTREME it may be uncontrollable, unpredictable and fast moving flames will be higher than roof tops.
There is a very high likelihood that people in the path of the fire will be injured or die. Many homes and businesses will be destroyed.
Only well prepared, well constructed and actively defended houses are likely to offer safety during a fire.
Thousands of embers will be blown around.
Spot fires will move quickly and come from many directions, up to 6 km ahead of the fire.
For your survival leaving is the best option. You should relocate to the location identified in your Bushfire Survival Plan.
The ESA advises you to make sure you know where you will get more information and monitor the situation for any changes. You can do this through local ACT media outlets, the ESA website www.esa.act.gov.au, the ESA Twitter and Facebook accounts or by calling Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.
- Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve (the Visitor Centre will remain open);
- selected roads within Namadgi National Park including Apollo Road, Orroral Road, Old Mill Road, Warks Road, Mount Franklin Road at Piccadilly Circus, and the Corin Dam Road (the Namadgi Visitor Centre will remain open);
- Googong Foreshores;
- Lower Molonglo River Corridor; and
- Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary
Boboyan Road and Brindabella Road remain open to through traffic. Namadgi National Park, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Googong Foreshores as well as Kowen Forest will remain closed from tomorrow until 7am Saturday, January 12, 2013 in the interests of public safety.
In an effort to accommodate recreational users, the Canberra Nature Park and all Pine Forest areas (other than Kowen Forest) will remain open to the public during the early morning hours, however users are advised that they should leave these areas no later than 11am.
Electric barbeques provided at the Cotter, Casuarina Sands, Pine Island and in Canberra’s urban parks will be available, however all gas barbeques will be turned off.