ACT News

Firefighters on stand-by amid calls to prepare for bushfire season

Firefighters and emergency services are on stand-by with temperatures set to climb towards 40 degrees on Sunday as volunteers and politicians urge Canberrans to fire-proof their properties and prepare their bushfire survival plans.

ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Dominic Lane said this weekend was "well and truly the time to get bushfire ready" with a heatwave and sweltering temperatures drawing attention to the bushfire threat in the ACT.

It's time to get bushfire ready.
It's time to get bushfire ready. Photo: Karleen Minney

"We'll be watching the weather very closely on Saturday and with very high temperatures forecast for Sunday we could see a total fire ban," he said.

"This would mean no fires in the open and no burning off, no wood-fired barbeques, and people should consider other measures around their homes too."

Bureau of Meteorology duty forecaster Mohammed Nabi said strong north-westerly winds had pushed a hot air mass from Queensland south with temperatures set to reach 33 on Saturday and 37 on Sunday.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Simon Corbell has urged all Canberrans to get their properties bushfire ready ahead of extreme hot weather in the territory on the weekend expected to increase the bushfire risk.

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"We have already had one total fire ban day declared in the ACT before the official start of summer and the forecast ahead from the Bureau of Meteorology suggests we are likely to have a higher than average bushfire risk due to reduced rainfall and higher than average temperatures," he said.

Mr Lane said ESA volunteers would be handing out bushfire ready kits to Canberrans across the ACT on Saturday before commencing a door knocking on at least 1300 properties in high risk areas during the coming weeks.

"The goal of this is to help Canberrans – particularly those in bushfire prone areas – to prepare themselves for the bushfire season and to develop a survival plan," he said.

"They need to be taking measures like removing dry vegetation close to their homes, considering the mulch they use in their gardens, cleaning gutters and roof spaces, closing spaces where embers could get under a house, and installing higher fire rated screens on their windows."

Mr Corbell said the door-knocking initiative was launched after a long period of community consultation by the ESA during the winter months.

"The program delivers on a specific action outlined in the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan to engage one-on-one with community members in bushfire-prone areas", he said.

Mr Lane said the emergency services had been working to improve their public messaging and to make sure all Canberrans were prepared should bushfires pass through the territory.

"We conducted and delivered a new bushfire strategic manage plan and consulted with the community to map where risk areas are and give people a greater sense of their risk," he said.

"We've also worked to target our messages to those people living in bushfire prone areas."

The preparations come after reports from the Climate Council which stated the ACT faces a greater risk of bushfires this summer as climate change brings longer fire seasons with more extreme risk days.

"Climate change is making hot days hotter and heatwaves longer and more frequent, with increasing drought conditions in Australia's southeast," said report author Adjunct Professor Will Steffen.

"The number of heatwave days in Canberra has doubled since 1950 and the increase in hot weather that was observed in the 2000–2009 decade has already reached the level previously projected for 2030 in Canberra."

The Bureau of Metrology's manager of climate prediction services Dr Andrew Watkins has also warned the ACT region is set for a warmer and drier-than-average summer with an increased risk of heatwaves and bushfires.

"There is an increased risk of bushfires in the ACT region - and in fact for most of the south eastern NSW region and northern Victoria region - with an outlook for warmer and drier conditions with intense heat," he said.  

"Early summer is looking warmer-than-normal for most of the country, and dry conditions are likely over much of the east and during the wet season build-up in the north."