Authorities are developing a "very, very pre-emptive" evacuation plan for Canberra as part of a plan for the worst-case scenario as bushfires burn near the ACT border, the territory's Rural Fire Service boss has said.
But it appears a reprieve from recent conditions is likely, with ACT RFS chief officer Joe Murphy also saying firefighters expected "more benign weather" in the coming week.
He said crews would use this time to work on containment lines in a bid to control blazes that may eventually encroach on the ACT, but which pose no immediate threat to the territory.
The ACT remained free of fires on Saturday, with the closest blaze burning three kilometres south-west of the border with NSW. The Adaminaby Complex fire had burnt more than 28,000 hectares by Saturday and remained 40 kilometres from urban parts of the ACT.
The Dunns Road fire, which had grown to more than 331,000 hectares on Saturday, has merged with another blaze known as the Atkinson fire. It was about 18 kilometres from the ACT border and about 48 kilometres from urban parts of the ACT on Saturday.
The Emergency Services Agency's Firebird 284 helicopter was also waterbombing the Mary's Hill fire, which was about 120 hectares in size and burning about eight kilometres from the ACT border, on Saturday evening.
Mr Murphy addressed residents from the rural ACT areas of Tharwa, Tidbinbilla, Smiths Road and Naas at a community meeting on Saturday.
He said fires burning to the territory's west would "continue to bulge and grow towards the ACT".
At the community meeting attended by more than 100 rural residents, he urged people to be prepared and to know what they would do if fires threatened their properties.
Asked by residents about the resources available to protect properties, Mr Murphy said even people in urban areas should be aware there was "a finite number" of firefighters, and they would not be able to protect every property in the ACT on the worst bushfire day.
"The answers we're giving to Canberra and the residents like me who live in urban areas are do not expect a fire truck at your door, do not expect a fire truck in your street, do not expect a fire truck in your suburb," he said.
"They will be prioritised. They will need to go where the highest priorities are. I know it's really hard to hear, but we need people to be self-prepared. We really do."
Some rural residents at the meeting said they were prevented by roadblocks from being able to get back to their properties and defend them during the 2018 Pierces Creek fire.
They asked Mr Murphy whether roadblocks were likely to be put in place again, keeping even residents out of fire-affected areas.
"I'll say right now that will in all likelihood occur again," he said.
"I understand how hard that is to hear, but these are decisions that will be made by the incident management team to prevent the loss of life.
"We will work with our policing partners. There is an evacuation plan being developed for Canberra right now. It's very, very pre-emptive, but that is the thinking and the progress of the work right now."
Mr Murphy said if there were active fires in the ACT, authorities' priorities would be preserving life, property and the environment - in that order.
"I'm saying right now, if it comes down to it, roads will be blocked," he said.
"We saw this out at Carwoola three years ago [during bushfires]. The police went there and roadblocked at Carwoola, and prevented people going back to their properties, to save people's lives.
"That is our prime responsibility. I know it is really hard to hear that we will prevent you getting back into your properties. We are trying to save your life."
One man asked that rural residents be notified of road closures in advance so that if they weren't home and wanted to defend their properties, they would have a chance to get back before the closures were enforced.
Mr Murphy replied: "Good idea. That will be done."
Ranger Brett McNamara, who lost his Tidbinbilla home to the 2003 bushfires, told the community meeting the ACT had "come a long way" in terms of skills, expertise and planning since then.
He said tools like prescribed burning had been put to good use, while the ACT's network of fire trails had been touched up and was now "gold-plated".
Mr McNamara said the trails had allowed for the quick containment of the Hospital Hill fire, which broke out in Namadgi National Park before being extinguished.
"The fire trail network that we have allowed us to get a dozer in there so quick, it was remarkable," he said.
"Within two hours, I think it was, we had six kilometres of containment built around Hospital Hill.
"We had a helicopter above it. We had 30 people on that fireground, and we put that thing to bed. We smashed it. We drowned it."
Emergency Services Agency commissioner Georgeina Whelan said while the fires near the border did not pose an immediate threat to the ACT, it was important to remain vigilant and have plans in place in case the situation changed.
Ms Whelan told media on Saturday afternoon that containment lines had been developed on and inside the ACT border to defend against the fires burning in NSW, while fire trails were being enhanced to improve firefighters' access to remote areas.
The ACT also had resources helping their NSW counterparts develop containment lines five kilometres from the Dunns Road fire.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said on Saturday he had renewed a state of alert for the ACT, and he expected it to remain in place throughout the current situation.
With bushfire smoke returning to the ACT late on Saturday, he said about 200,000 face masks from the territory government supply had been distributed. Mr Barr said the government had about the same amount still in reserve, and the capacity to ask the federal government for more if necessary.