Warning Alert | Dec. 21: 3:14 p.m. EST
Very high fire danger advisories in place in New South Wales, Australia, Dec. 22. State of Emergency active through Dec. 26.
This alert began 21 Dec 2019 20:08 GMT and is scheduled to expire 26 Dec 2019 23:59 GMT.
- Incident: Bushfires, very high fire danger threat, state of emergency
- Location: New South Wales
- Time Frame: Through at least Dec. 26
- Impact: Evacuations, road closures; transport, utility, and business disruptions likely
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) is maintaining emergency warnings for bushfires, as well as advisories for fire danger conditions in New South Wales (NSW) through Dec. 22. Additionally, a state of emergency remains in force through at least Dec. 26. Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has issued a fire weather warning for the Northern Slopes and North Western areas of the state through Dec. 22 due to high temperatures, strong winds, and low humidity; total fire bans are also in effect for these two zones.
The NSW RFS has assigned the following fire danger ratings to the various areas within the state:
- Very High New England, Northern Slopes, North Western, Central Ranges, Southern Slopes
- High: Far North Coast, Greater Hunter, Greater Sydney Region, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Far South Coast, Monaro Alpine, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Southern Ranges, Upper Central West Plains, Lower Central West Plains, Eastern Riverina, Far Western
- Low-Moderate: North Coast, Southern Riverina, Northern Riverina, South Western
These rating represent an overall drop in fire danger in effect on Dec. 21 where the Greater Sydney Region, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, and Southern Ranges were assessed at the Catastrophic level; Greater Hunter and Central Ranges at the Extreme level; and Monaro Alpine, Northern Slopes, North Western, and Southern Slopes at the Severe level.
More than 100 bushfires burning across primarily the eastern regions of New South Wales as of Dec. 22, with major out-of-control bushfires including those at Grose Valley, Gospers Mountain, Green Wattle Creek, Tianjara and Currawon. Authorities have not provided an estimated containment date for the fires; hot and dry conditions continue to hamper firefighting efforts, and additional fire growth is likely in the coming days. Fires could lead to further evacuations, closure of secondary and primary roads, and general ground travel and business disruptions.
The bushfires have caused some localized transport disruptions throughout NSW, including to air travel.
Authorities have asked motorists to delay travel where possible as several major and secondary roads have been experiencing intermittent closures in some locations, including the Great Western Highway, Princes Highway, and the Hume Motorway. The status of nearby roads could change over the coming hours and days; authorities could close routes within the wildfire complexes and evacuated communities due to fire activity and the needs of response operations. Traffic flows could also be disrupted 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. Power outages are possible in places.
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).
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.