Cool change, rain a reprieve for firefighters
RFS and Ambulance Chaplain Jenni Roberts sits on the back of her ute with the items that she had decided to take with her if her home was destroyed in the fires. Photo: Melissa Adams
The immediate fire danger in the Canberra region eased when a cool change swept through on Sunday, dropping more than 7 millimetres of rain on fire grounds near Cooma.
And a heat wave forecast to return later this week should be offset by weak winds, cloud cover and higher humidity.
The chill provided welcome reprieve for firefighters and landholders who have battled blazes near Cooma, Yass and Bungendore since early last week.
The three major blazes were under control on Sunday and crews were working to ensure the fires did not pose further risk.
The south-east endured an ''intense'' week of dangerous bushfires conditions, with high temperatures and dry conditions exacerbated by strong winds on Tuesday and Saturday.
But the Canberra region should be afforded some respite in coming days. The Emergency Services Agency says the fire danger rating is unlikely to climb back to severe or extreme by Friday.
The weather came as a relief to the area's villages, which have been on high alert since Tuesday.
About 200 residents packed the Numeralla Hall on Sunday afternoon for an update on the threat.
The crowd was told the blaze posed no active threat and containment work would continue.
Despite the lower risk, Rural Fire Service chaplain Jenni Roberts told residents to be prepared for the worst.
The semi-retired Anglican minister owns 50 hectares on Tuross Road, between Nimmatabel and Numeralla, and was evacuated on Tuesday.
Ms Roberts had her possessions packed in her ute parked outside the hall.
She said the choice of what to pack had been difficult.
"What do you take and what do you leave?" Ms Roberts said.
"If I go home and there's no house, this is all I've got.
"What do I need to start up again?"
The mercury dropped below 15 degrees on Sunday, and Monday is forecast to be 24 degrees, Tuesday 30, and Wednesday 33.
The temperatures are set to soar to the high 30s again on Thursday, hitting 37 degrees.
But Rural Fire Service Chief Officer Andrew Stark said dangerous fire conditions were not expected at this stage, despite the warmer weather.
''The last 10 days have seen a very intense level of activity for the ACT Rural Fire Service and for all of the surrounding NSW Rural Fire Service crews, so a week of respite from the conditions will be good,'' Mr Stark said.
''The potential for other fires to occur beyond our immediate vicinity, which require our assistance, could easily occur, with warm conditions prevailing still in the central west slopes and plains.'' ACT Rural Fire Service crews are still helping their NSW counterparts battle blazes at Cooma and Yass.
But although the past week was difficult for firefighters, some positives have emerged for the territory.
More than 130 Canberrans have come forward wanting to join the RFS, while more than 6000 people downloaded the bushfire survival plan in the past week.
''Importantly, we want people to take the next step, downloading the plan, that's just a template,'' Mr Stark said.
''They need to sit down and work through the plan so they develop a specific plan for them, their household, their family, or their farm,'' he said.
The Emergency Services Agency has also seen a jump in social media activity. Its Facebook page reached nearly 8000 followers on Sunday.