ACT News


Fire chief warns of growing Canberra threat

As huge blazes threaten NSW towns, Canberra also faces its worst bushfire conditions in a decade.

The ACT has sent about 60 Rural Fire Service volunteers and government staff to help fight the fires in the Blue Mountains, where several communities have been evacuated.

Persistent haze over the weekend reminded Canberrans of the need to be prepared for local fires. The ACT Rural Fire Service's chief officer, Andrew Stark, said on Sunday the capital was not as exposed as the areas around Sydney, but the threat was likely to grow over summer.

''At the moment, we haven't had the really hot, drying weather that the Sydney Basin has had,'' he said.

''We had a bit of rain a couple of weeks ago, so we have a little green tinge, but that will recede very quickly if we don't get any follow-up rain.''

Mr Stark expected fire conditions in the ACT region to worsen ''very quickly''.


''In fact, we'll probably see conditions worse than we've seen any year since 2003.

''Unlike in 2002 and 2003, we're not in a drought, but we'll certainly have conditions where we can see really fast-moving bushfires develop close to property, that threaten those properties and threaten lives.''

Two ACT ''strike teams'' - one comprising volunteers and one from the Parks Brigade - plus helicopter and support staff have been battling the blazes west of Sydney since Friday.

They will be replaced by fresh teams from Canberra on Monday.

Mr Stark said the ACT crews were ''right in the thick of it''.

Half were fighting the fierce front near Springwood, where most of the houses were lost at the weekend, while the other team was battling another very large blaze at Mount Victoria.

He said Canberra's firefighters were highly respected for their expertise in mountainous terrain, due to their regular work in the Brindabellas.

ACT helicopter crews were also directly in charge of some of the air attacks on the NSW fires, he said.

''They're what we call air-attack supervisors, so they're in a helicopter above up to six or seven other helicopters, directing their operations and telling them where to work.

''They're doing really amazing work at the moment.''

The ACT Rural Fire Service held an open day at its helicopter base in Hume on Sunday, which attracted thousands of visitors.

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