Another hellish day of extremes awaits firefighters
ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Andrew Stark. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Firefighters are bracing for more horror fire conditions on Saturday, and warn that the ACT has been lucky to emerge from the past week without a serious bushfire threat.
A total fire ban will again be in force for Saturday, as strong winds and dry, hot conditions take the fire danger rating from severe to extreme.
Temperatures will reach 37 degrees with westerly winds gusting up to 65km/h from late morning to late in the night.
Rural Fire Service chief officer Andrew Stark has warned that any fire that starts on Saturday could quickly burn out of control.
''We can't stress enough that [Saturday] will be another challenging day,'' Mr Stark said.
''We're expecting low humidity and quite strong winds again, which are always the conditions in which we see the most dangerous fires both for our firefighters and for the community,'' he said.
Firefighters were allowed another day of respite on Friday, with relatively weak winds decreasing the fire danger.
But the fire fronts in the ACT's immediate surrounds - near Cobbler Road, west of Yass and near the Kybeyan Range, east of Cooma - continue to raise concerns for nearby communities.
A bushfire near Bungendore is under control, but is still burning.
Those fires do not currently pose any risk to the ACT, and the westerly winds predicted for Saturday would not push the Cobbler Road fire towards the city.
Mr Stark said an element of luck had helped the ACT avoid serious fires during this week's conditions.
''We do everything we can through our preparations, both as fire services and across government, in relation to mitigation and reducing that risk,'' Mr Stark said.
''But on days when conditions are very extreme, it is good luck that we don't have power lines [arcing], or … malicious arson, or any other activity that starts fires on those days,'' he said.
Showers are predicted for Sunday and Monday, but they are likely to be too light to have any real impact on the fires, and may even hamper fire fighting efforts in southern New South Wales.
Mr Stark said the success of firefighters this week showed many of the lessons of 2003 had been learnt.
He said his crews - which have been sent to fires near Bungendore, Cooma, and Yass - were rightly proud of their efforts.
''They're quite buoyant, they've had such successful operations,'' Mr Stark said.
''The ACT fire crews were central to preventing the Bungendore fire crossing the Kings Highway,'' he said.
''After the history of 2003, to be able to contain three separate fires, one of which was eight separate lightening strikes in the Brindabella Ranges in those conditions, makes them very happy.''
Two strike teams from the ACT RFS are fighting the Cobbler Road fire and will work 24 hours for the next few days.
ACT Fire and Rescue crews have also been sent to Cooma to assist with efforts in the Kybeyan Range.
ACT Fire and Rescue has also provided resources to Queanbeyan.
Nature reserves and various rural roads will again be closed on Saturday, and the Summer Sounds concert has been cancelled.
Horse owners are being urged to make sure they are ready to activate their bushfire survival plan.