Australia fires: NSW, Victoria and Canberra bushfire alert as hot, dry weather sweeps in

Total fire bans in place and emergency services on alert as weather tipped to fan bushfires

A state of alert has been issued for Australia’s capital and a total fire ban is in place in southern parts of New South Wales and most of Victoria due to forecast hot and dry conditions.

Melbourne and Canberra are predicted to reach highs of 43 and 41 degrees on Friday and the weather is expected to worsen fire situations across two states and the capital territory.

Fire weather warnings have been issued for the Monaro alpine, southern ranges, and southern slopes fire areas in NSW and the Australian Capital Territory, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning warm, dry and windy conditions will increase the risk of fires during the day.

The 18,500-hectare Orroral Valley fire south of Canberra is currently at advice level, and residents in Tharwa Village, Boboyan Road, Apollo Road, Top Nass Road and Nass Road have been advised to remain vigilant.

Extremely high temperatures and low humidity are forecast over the weekend. All fires in New South Wales are at advice level, but NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers told Sky News the heatwave was going to be an issue for fires on the south coast of NSW, in the Snowy Mountains and the ACT over the next few days.

He said the Orroral Valley fire was expected to cross over into New South Wales on Friday night.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s going to be a tough weekend for firefighters and residents in those areas,” he said.

He said firefighters did manage to get some containment work done this week, but until areas ahead of fires were burnt out, there was no containment.

“Those fires have been coming out in fingers from the mountain ranges, and they will continue to do that until we actually put in backburns to burn out that fuel so they can’t keep coming out,” he said.

“We’ve actually done a huge amount of work this week… but obviously we can’t get everything done.”

A map put out by the RFS on Friday highlights the potential spread of the Orroral fire over the weekend.

In Victoria, almost all of the state is apart from Gippsland is at fire warning level, with very hot conditions and a north to northwesterly wind strengthening in the morning, and becoming gusty in the afternoon over western and central districts.

Isolated thunderstorms could arrive in the afternoon and evening.

There are still 10 fires in Victoria, and one fire is at watch and act level, in Bendoc in the state’s north east, after being at emergency warning level overnight.

Emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp told 3AW Radio it was going to be a “significant challenge” on Friday, and there was a potential for dry lightning in the state that could spark more fires.

“It’s going to be a tough day … there’s a strong focus on this as you can imagine. The west of the state is so dry through to the centre of the state,” he said.

Victorians are being warned to expect brownouts on Friday. The Victorian energy, environment and climate change minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, said the power supply would be “very tight” due to the hot weather.

“There are many variables that can affect power supply including bushfires, stress on transmission lines and ageing coal plants that can fail with no notice, like we saw last night,” she said.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has asked people to limit their power use between 1pm and 8pm, limit air conditioning to between 23 and 26 degrees, and to switch off pool pumps.

“While AEMO is not currently forecasting supply shortfalls or the need for involuntary load shedding, heatwave conditions that drive high electricity demand, combined with unplanned generation or transmission outages, could result in electricity disruptions,” AEMO said.


Josh Taylor

The GuardianTramp

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