Published: Sun, February 02, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Australia's capital on fire alert as smoke and dust trigger health warnings

Australia's capital on fire alert as smoke and dust trigger health warnings

(Alex Ellinghausen/The Sydney Morning Herald) (Alex Ellinghausen/The Sydney Morning Herald) Fire burns in the grass along the road as firetrucks pass by near Bumbalong, south of the Australian capital, Canberra.

Prime Minister Andrew Barr told reporters that great efforts have been made to protect the southern suburbs of Canberra, particularly the rural village of Tharwa.

Cooler conditions on Sunday resulted in reduced fire activity across most firegrounds but the RFS is anxious thunderstorms and lightning strikes could produce new ignitions.

The state of emergency declared on Thursday was the first in the Australian Capital Territory, which includes Canberra and some surrounding townships, since 2003, when fires destroyed nearly 500 homes.

More than 60 fires were burning in NSW, with a third of those uncontained and officials issuing emergency level warnings for five in the state's south.

While fire in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), home to the capital city, has spread to more than 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres), close to a quarter of the territory's entire landmass, the heat fuelling the danger is subsiding. It is the first such emergency statement in the Australian Capital Territory since 2003, when forest fires killed four people and destroyed almost 500 homes in one day.

Hot and windy conditions are expected to last through the weekend.

Firefighter looks at razed land. | Source EPA-EFE  DAN KIRKMAN
Firefighter looks at razed land. | Source EPA-EFE DAN KIRKMAN

Blazes known as spot fires have been sparked by embers carried by the wind up to 10km (6 miles) away from the massive inferno, and Ms Whelan said some of those fires would eventually merge with the main bushfire.

Since September, bushfires in Australia have killed at least 33 people and destroyed thousands of homes. About 2,500 homes have been destroyed and more than 11.7 million hectares (2.8 million acres) of tinder-dry bushland have been razed.

"That will cause that fire ground to be very erratic".

The temperatures in the state capital were somewhat cooler on Sunday after reaching 40 ° C for two consecutive days and reaching 42.7 ° C on Saturday.

Out of control wildfires burned on Saturday near the Australian capital Canberra and the surrounding state of New South Wales, and vulnerable residents were warned to prepare for the evacuation.

The department's medical advisor Dr Adi Vyas said dust from dust storms in western NSW may affect western Sydney.

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