Bushfire threat decreases in NSW and ACT, Australia, due to rainfall forecast through at least Jan. 20. Transport disruptions persist.

Severity: Warning

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Sydney
  • Canberra
  • Wagga Wagga
  • Newcastle
  • Albury
  • Dubbo
  • Cobar
  • Port Macquarie
  • Orange
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Grafton

This alert began 16 Jan 2020 14:55 GMT and is scheduled to expire 20 Jan 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Bushfire threat
  • Location(s): New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory (map)
  • Time Frame: Through at least Jan. 20
  • Impact: Evacuations; road closures; transport, utility, and business disruptions

Summary
The bushfire threat continues to decrease in New South Wales (NSW) as a result of rainfall forecast for the coming days, despite more than 160 fires continuing to burn across the state as of early Jan. 17. Thunderstorms in the region have previously prompted the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to issue severe thunderstorm warnings late Jan. 16. As of early Jan. 17, BOM has issued road weather alerts for Sydney and Canberra for possible decreased visibility and slick roadways due to heavy rainfall. Authorities will likely issue new alerts, or update/rescind existing advisories, as weather conditions change over the coming days. Conditions can change rapidly in the coming days, resulting once again in an increased fire threat.

As of Jan. 17, a high fire danger warning is in effect for the Southern Slopes, while all other areas in the region are at the low to moderate fire threat level. Authorities will likely issue new alerts and update or rescind existing advisories as conditions change over the coming days. Officials have lifted the total fire ban that had been in place across NSW.

Authorities have not provided an estimated containment date for the fires; any further hot and dry conditions and strong winds would continue to hamper firefighting efforts and allow for additional fire growth. Fires could lead to further evacuations, closure of secondary and primary roads, and general ground travel and business disruptions.

Transport and Utilities

The bushfires have caused some road closures and localized transport disruptions in the affected areas. Authorities have closed major roads, including portions of Princes Highway and Monaro Highway to the Victorian border. Other secondary roads throughout the state also remain closed due to fires. The status of roads could change over the coming hours and days; authorities could close routes within the wildfire complex and evacuate additional communities due to fire activity and the needs of response operations. Traffic disruptions are also likely during re-entry periods after authorities lift evacuation orders. Low visibility from smoke and possible ashfall could contribute to traffic delays and congestion in the region.

Smoke and ashfall from bushfires continue to cause poor air quality in Canberra and surrounding areas of ACT since at least Jan. 11. Low visibility could trigger flight disruptions at airports in the region, including those serving Canberra (CBR) and Sydney (SYD). Power outages are likely within and near bushfire complexes.

Health

Smoke from fires is a mixture of gases and fine particles from burning trees, plants, and possibly building materials. Such smoke can hurt eyes, irritate the respiratory system, and worsen chronic heart and lung diseases. Smoke may also worsen symptoms for people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Advice
Heed all evacuation orders. Seek updated information on road conditions if driving in the affected area; road closures and detours will cause increased congestion and delays. Individuals not under evacuation warnings should consider remaining inside well-ventilated, air-conditioned spaces to reduce exposure to smoke. Collect essential items - including identification and any important legal and travel documents - in a "go-bag" that can be easily accessed. Charge battery-powered devices in case of prolonged power outages.

Resources
New South Wales Rural Fire Service: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Bureau of Meteorology: www.bom.gov.au
NSW Emergency Management: www.emergency.nsw.gov.au
ACT Emergency Services Agency: esa.act.gov.au
Live Traffic New South Wales: www.livetraffic.com

Airports
Canberra Airport: www.canberraairport.com.au
Sydney Airport: www.sydneyairport.com.au