Canberra gasps for breath as bushfires burn


A State of Alert was declared for the ACT on Thursday 2 January as the bushfires burn, with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr acknowledging it was still in place on Monday 6 January. He said this is to allow Canberrans to prepare in case of an emergency.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: A photographer captures smoke at Parliament House on January 05, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Smoke haze across Eastern Australian cities has become common in recent months as bushfires continue to burn. Hundreds of fires continue to burn in NSW, Victoria and South Australia, with the Australian Defence Force now called in to help with firefighting and rescue efforts. 14 people have died in the fires in NSW, Victoria and SA since New Year's Eve. (Photo by Rohan Thomson/Getty Images
Wearing a face mask, a photographer captures bushfire smoke at Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday 5 January. Getty.

As at 8.46am on Tuesday 7 January, the Bureau of Meteorology was forecasting temperatures around the low 30s for the week in Canberra with the exception of Friday 10 January, which is forecast to hit 38oC.

While hot, it falls short of Canberra’s highest ever temperature of 44.0oC that was recorded on Saturday 4 January. The previous record was 42.2oC recorded on 1 February 1968.

Canberra also recorded its warmest December day on record when the temperature reached 41.1oC on Saturday 21 December 2019. The previous high was 39.2oC recorded on 21 December 1994.

Although weather conditions improved on Monday 6 January, and the smoke that was impacting the city had moved away, Mr Barr said “there is a risk it may come back” and encouraged the community to minimise their exposure to bushfire smoke by staying indoors.

The ACT Government acknowledges that many Canberrans are anxious about their health due to exposure to smoke.

The ACT Government has supplied face masks to the Early Morning Centre for individuals sleeping rough. Face masks have also been offered through Housing ACT to tenants that need them. They have also accepted a supply of P2 face masks from the Commonwealth Government.

The supply of 100,000 masks were being delivered to pharmacies and expected to be available for people who are most at risk of the health impacts of exposure to smoke from Tuesday 7 January. This includes people with existing chronic lung and heart conditions, pregnant women and people over 65 years of age.

Masks will also be available through the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service for their clients.

However, ACT Health recommends that people with lung conditions and chronic heart conditions should seek advice from their medical practitioner prior to using these masks.

ACT Health’s advice to the community also remains that the best way to avoid exposure to the smoke is by staying indoors (with windows and doors closed).

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