Sydney has woken up to horrendous smoke blanketing the city as a bush fire burns to the northwest. Residents are advised to take precautions.
Follow our live coverage of today’s bushfires
Sydney has woken up to horrendous smoke blanketing the city as a bush fire burns to the northwest. And there are more fires tipped South Australia, Queensland and large parts of NSW.
Air pollution off the scale in Sydney
As smoke continues to blanket Sydney this morning due to a bushfire in the city’s northwest, some today’s air quality figures make for some worrying reading.
According to the NSW Government’s figures, air quality has plummeted to “hazardous” levels in Sydney’s north-west.
Some suburbs are seeing readings between 300-400 on the air quality index.
“Hazardous” particle readings are anything over 200. “Good” air quality is a rating below 66.
Rouse Hill is the most polluted area, with the visibility index at a massive rating of 1989 and fine particle pollution at 422.
The air quality is also “poor” to “hazardous” in parts of the city’s east and south-west.
The NSW Rural Fire Service said smoke from an enormous bushfire burning in the Gospers Mountain was being blown across much of Sydney.
It says the smoke along the state’s east coast is likely to begin clearing once the day warms up and winds increase.
However the smoke is not expected to completely clear and is likely to settle across the area once again this afternoon.
Here are some health precautions you should take in the meantime.
- Residents are advised to stay indoors, with windows and doors closed, or stay in air conditioned premises, if possible.
- Avoid vigorous exercise, especially if you have asthma or a lung condition.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a mask designed to filter fine particles. Use a mask rated either P1 or P2. These are available from hardware stores.
- P2 masks are more effective in blocking the finest particles, however any mask has to be worn correctly over the nose and mouth to protect you.
Queensland fire crisis expected to push into 2020
Exhausted firefighters are working to contain 70 bushfires burning across Queensland before a blast of hot air sends temperatures soaring.
Heatwave conditions are expected to push the mercury into the mid-30s near some of the major fires on Wednesday, with some parts of the state’s interior to hit 40C.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing is planning for the bushfire emergency to push into next year, with no prospect of significant rain to extinguish the fires.
The best crews can do is strengthen containment lines and be ready when the weather worsens.
“We’ve got weeks ahead of us,” Mr Wassing has told ABC radio. “Our planning, from a resourcing perspective across Queensland, is already now projecting out to Christmas and into the new year.”
Almost 50 fires still burning in NSW
Hot and windy conditions are making life difficult for firefighters in NSW today, as 48 fires continue to burn across the state.
The NSW Rural Fire Service says 23 of these are uncontained.
“It’s fair to say all of these fires have the potential to present real challenges today,” RFS NSW Chief Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said on Tuesday.
Perfect storm’ brewing in Queensland
A massive fire in Queensland’s Pechey State Forest has tripled in size forcing schools and businesses to close.
Toowoomba Region Mayor Paul Antonio told AAP the fire threat was at emergency level.
“I have never seen a scenario like this – it’s a perfect storm,” Mr Antonio said. He said the coming heatwave would be a “massive problem”.
“As of Monday morning, the 14,000 hectares of land had been burned out. That is expanding by the minute.
“This fire is out of control, we are doing all we can to contain it, but we will not risk limb and life.”
The monster fire has been burning for days, causing severe damage to the water supply to Toowoomba and a dozen surrounding smaller communities.
Residents are restricted to domestic water use only as the council works to repair the network damage with water supply for firefighters the priority.
McDonald’s criticised for making staff work through bushfires
McDonald’s workers were reportedly asked to continue flipping burgers as a major bushfire raged through NSW’s Port Macquarie region.
The Retail and Fast Food Workers Union says staff members at the McDonald’s store, on the corner of the Pacific and Oxley highways at Thrumster, were told to continue on with their shifts, even as they were receiving SMS messages alerting them to the emergency situation unfolding on November 8.
Nine News reports that a group of five or six McDonald’s staff members eventually chose to ignore the orders of management and walked out of the store, leaving three or four managers and one staff member were left behind.
However, a McDonald’s spokesman denied staff were told they had to stay at the store.
“At no point was any employee told they must stay at the store,” he said. “Any staff member who asked to leave was allowed to do so, with the remaining employees advised they could go home if they told their manager of their decision to leave the restaurant.”
Total statewide fire ban issued for SA
A total fire ban has been declared for South Australia on Tuesday ahead of a day of potentially catastrophic fire conditions on Wednesday.
While the temperature in Adelaide is expected to hit 30C on Tuesday, the CFS says fire bans have been issued because a bushfire on Wednesday could not be controlled.
The temperature on that day is expected to reach 42C in Adelaide, 45C at Ceduna, 44C at Murray Bridge, Whyalla and Port Lincoln, and 43C at Port Pirie. “We are putting restrictions on activities on Tuesday to minimise the risk of fires starting, which may not be fully extinguished by Wednesday,” CFS chief officer Mark Jones said.
Queensland to swelter through fires
Fire-ravaged Queensland is bracing for searing temperatures up to 40 degrees as exhausted firefighters struggle to contain bushfires burning across the state.
Heatwave conditions are expected to hit the state on Wednesday as hot winds sweep across the southern interior, according to the weather bureau.
The temperatures will ramp up the fire danger as residents in the path of a monster fire fled as a blaze closed in on the town of Crows Nest, north of Toowoomba, on Monday. On Tuesday morning there were unconfirmed reports up to five homes had been destroyed in Crows Nest.
The state’s bushfire crisis has entered its second week, with more than 80 fires burning across the state.
More than 158,000 hectares has been burnt and 16 homes have been lost. On Moreton Island, campers – including some schoolies – left isolated northern campgrounds after lightning started a fire on Saturday.
Today will be “tough” for NSW
NSW’s Rural Fire Service Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers has warned that today and Thursday will be “tough days” for the state.
Parts of the state under severe fire danger on Tuesday include Greater Sydney, Greater Hunter, Illawarra/Shoalhaven, Southern Ranges and Central Ranges fire regions.
These regions, along with the Northern Slopes and North Western regions, are also under a total fire ban.
Much of the rest of eastern NSW and the ACT is under very high fire danger. Some 1.6 million hectares of land have been lost so far – more than the entire 1993/1994 bushfire season.
Firefighters were on Monday battling a firefront of some 6,000 kilometres, the equivalent distance of a return Sydney-Perth trip. Mr Rogers said firefighters were “singularly focused” on preventing further loss of life and property and warned people to stay alert. “Even though it’s not a catastrophic danger (this week) it’s still going to be bad fire days,” he said.
He urged anyone who had not yet been affected by bushfires to “please use this as a wake-up call”, warning them to take steps including cleaning out gutters and having a fire safety plan in place.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian asked everyone to “maintain their vigilance”. Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said the biggest risk in the coming days would be firefighters becoming fatigued.
A DC10 air tanker had been drafted in from North America to help drop up to 38,000 litres of water and retardant on blazes and efforts will be bolstered by help from New Zealand firefighters, he said.
Sydney totally covered in smoke
A large fire burning northwest of Sydney has blanketed the city with smoke.
The NSW Rural Fire Service said smoke from an enormous bush fire burning in the Gospers Mountain was being blown across much of Sydney.
The RFS said the smoke would start to clear as the day warmed up and winds increased.
“However due to north westerly winds smoke from this fire is likely to affect Sydney over the coming days,” the RFS said in a statement.
A poor air quality alert has been issued by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment due to elevated PM2.5 levels in Sydney.