A massive out-of-control bushfire which is raging across one fifth of the Australian Capital Territory has destroyed 20 homes and is threatening lives ahead of scorching temperatures forecast for Sunday.
The ACT has suffered through one of the worst days of the bushfire season, which threatens to match the fatal blaze of 2003 that destroyed 500 homes and killed four people.
The Orroral Valley fire was downgraded to a watch and act level just before 5pm on Saturday after it flared to emergency levels for a second consecutive day of 40C temperatures.
A massive out-of-control bushfire which has destroyed one fifth of the Australian Capital Territory is threatening homes and lives ahead of scorching temperatures forecast for Sunday. Fire burns within sight of the suburban fringe of the city of Canberra on January 31
Clair Cowie defends her home from an out of control spot fire on February 01, 2020 at Bredbo North near Canberra
Horses panic as a spot fire runs through the property of Lawrence and Clair Cowie on February 01, 2020 near Canberra
People in the areas of Apollo Road, Boboyan Road, Naas Road and Top Naas Road have been told to remain vigilant.
The bushfire has burned more than 52,000 hectares so far and thick smoke is making it difficult for aircraft to fly over certain areas.
ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Georgina Whelan told reporters on Saturday: ‘The issue we have with the fire activity is that the fire itself is generating its own weather pattern, and that combined with the wind direction is what is driving that intensity in the fire.
‘Consequently we have had to withdraw our firefighting efforts, direct firefighting efforts, which is why aerial attack is what we will be undertaking alongside New South Wales this evening.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr made the announcement as the 18,000-hectare fire is set to threaten homes in the capital’s south (pictured)
Leave now! A state of emergency was declared for the ACT on Friday and some residents fled their homes due to the raging Orroral Valley fire (pictured)
Temperatures in the nation’s capital topped 40C for a second consecutive day.
A total fire ban is in place for Canberra until midnight Sunday with sweltering temperatures of 34C and a chance of storms which is a cause for concern.
As firefighters continue to tackle the blaze which has formed its own weather system, Ms Whelan warned that the intensity of the blaze could increase as it becomes unpredictable.
‘It has been unpredictable. It remains challenging. It is difficult to access. This fire could create its own weather system,’ she told reporters on Saturday.
‘If all of what I have just outlined occurs, there is a chance this fire could break containment lines.’
With a state of emergency declared in ACT, officials desperately tried to clear vulnerable areas as the sky turned a dark, hazy orange on Saturday in the middle of the day (pictured)
The Orroral Valley fire is seen burning on the horizon above Canberra late on Friday night (pictured) with the threat likely to increase on Saturday
Chief Minister Andrew Barr on Saturday said the state of emergency in the territory is expected to remain until at least Monday.
‘We have a number of containment lines in place, however if they are breached the fire could continue up to the west of the ACT suburban borders,’ he said.
‘But it is forecast to be still quite hot tomorrow (Sunday) and we are expecting some storms that could lead to quite unpredictable weather, wind changes.’
With tops of 34C and a chance of storms on Sunday, Bureau of Meteorology’s Dean Sgarbossa said humidity will continue to soar heading into Sunday, ABC reported.
He urged residents and visitors to take heed in the warning and leave saying that it’s ‘disappointing’ that some are being told to leave by police.
‘It is incredible disappointing that a number of people had to be told to leave the area last night by ACT police.’
A plane is seen dropping retardant over the out-of-control Orroral Valley fire on Saturday
A helicopter drops water on a fire near Bumbalong, south of the Australian capital, Canberra, Saturday
Overnight, crews are strengthening containment lines and have a planned backburn along Naas Rd on the east side of Mt Tennent.
Canberra sweltered through its hottest back-to-back days since records began after reached 41.9C on Friday followed by a scorching 42.7C on Saturday, according to Weatherzone.
Of the 12 major fires burning across NSW on Saturday night, three were at emergency levels in the Bega Valley region.
The Clear Range fire in Snowy Monaro region is also at emergency levels and closed the Monaro Highway.
Skies in Michelago and Bredbo have turned orange and homes in Tantawangalo are also under threat.
Fire crews are being forced to let the fire burn across Mt Tennent, as it’s proved impossible to get close enough to fight it.
The Clear Range Fire burns through a property near Bredbo North on February 1
Sydney is warned of suffocating smoke on Sunday as raging bushfires in the nation’s capital and south-eastern New South Wales continue to burn.
A bushfire is also threatening lives in Victoria and an emergency warning has been issued for the Cape Conran blaze.
Residents have been told it’s too late to leave and take shelter indoors.
2019/2020 FIRE SEASON DEATH TOLL
The national death toll in Australia’s 2019/2020 bushfire season was 33 as of Monday, January 27, with 25 confirmed deaths in New South Wales, three in South Australia and five in Victoria.
New South Wales:
Robert Lindsey, 77, and Gwen Hyde, 68, were found in their burned out Coongbar home near Casino on October 9th.
New South Wales:
The body of 85-year-old George Nole was found in a burnt out car near his home in Wytaliba, near Glen Innes.
Vivian Chaplain, a 69-year-old woman from Wytaliba, succumbed to her injuries in hospital after attempting in vain to save her home and animals from the blaze.
The body of 63-year-old Julie Fletcher was pulled from a scorched building in Johns River, north of Taree.
Barry Parsons, 58, was found in a shed at Willawarrin, near Kempsey.
Chris Savva, 64, died after his 4WD overturned near burnt-out South Arm bridge, near Nambucca Heads.
A 59-year-old man was founded sheltered in a Yarrowitch water tank on November 7. He died of injuries on December 29.
David Moresi, 69, died after being involved in a traffic incident while working at the at the Gelantipy fire in East Gippsland on November 30.
New South Wales:
Firefighters Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, and Geoffrey Keaton, 32, died on December 19 after a tree fell on their truck while they were travelling through Buxton, south of Sydney.
Samuel McPaul, 28, was battling a blaze in Jingellic, in Green Valley, about 70km east of Albury on the border of NSW and Victoria, on December 30 when a ‘fire tornado’ caused his 10-tonne firetruck to roll.
The body of 69-year-old Ron Selth was found in his Charleston home, which was destroyed by the Cudlee Creek blaze on December 21.
NEW YEAR’S EVE FIRES
New South Wales:
Dairy farmer Patrick Salway, 29, and his father Robert, 63, died trying to save their property in Cobargo, near Bega, on December 31.
A 70-year-old man, named by local media as Laurie Andrew, was found dead outside a home at Yatte Yattah, west of Lake Conjola.
The body of a 70-year-old man was found in a burnt vehicle on a road off the Princes Highway at Yatte Yattah on the morning of New Year’s Day.
The body of a 62-year-old man was found in a vehicle on Wandra Road at Sussex Inlet about 11.30am on New Year’s Day.
A body, believed to be a 56-year-old man, found outside a home at Coolagolite, east of Cobargo on New Year’s Day.
An off-duty RFS firefighter, believed to be 72-year-old Colin Burns, was found near a car in Belowra after the New Year’s Eve fires swept through.
Beloved great-grandfather Mick Roberts, 67, from Buchan, in East Gippsland, was found dead at his home on the morning of New Year’s Day.
Fred Becker, 75, was the second person to die in Victoria. He suffered a heart attack while trying to defend his Maramingo Creek home.
New South Wales:
David Harrison, a 47-year-old man from Canberra, suffered a heart attack defending his friend’s home near Batlow on Saturday, January 4.
A 71-year-old man was found on January 6. Police have been told the man was last sighted on December 31, 2019 and was moving equipment on his property in Nerrigundah.
An 84-year-old man who stayed to defend his home in Cobargo, NSW, dies in hospital three weeks after fire hit. His pet dog Bella, who stayed by his side as fires raged, was also killed in the disaster.
Three American firefighters are killed when Coulson Aviation C-130 Hercules water bomber Zeus crashed while fighting fires near Cooma on Thursday January 23. They have been named as Capt. Ian H. McBeth, 44, First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson and Flight Engineer Rick A. DeMorgan Jr, 43.
On January 24, Michael Clark, 59, was found in a Bodalla home destroyed by bushfires near the NSW South Coast town of Moruya.
Forest Fire Management firefighter Mat Kavanagh, 43, was killed Friday January 3 when he was involved in a two-car crash on the Goulburn Valley Highway.
Bill Slade, a 60-year-old father of two from Wonthaggi was fighting fires with Parks Victoria at Omeo when he died on January 11. He has been remembered as one of the longest serving, most experienced and fittest firefighters.
Well-known outback pilot Dick Lang, 78, and his 43-year-old son, Adelaide surgeon Clayton Lang, died in the Kangaroo Island bushfire after their car was trapped by flames.
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