Welcome rain and cooler conditions are forecast for the Territory this week, hopefully providing some relief to firefighters tackling blazes in the region.
As at 9am Tuesday 4 February, the Orroral Valley fire continues to burn out of control with the size of the fire covering approximately 68,508 Ha.
The fire started on Monday 27 January, likely caused by a landing light from an Army MRH-90 helicopter, while the aircraft was on the ground.
The helicopter and crew were conducting aerial reconnaissance and ground clearance to enable access for emergency services personnel who were conducting bushfire prevention measures in the ACT.
Defence has taken immediate action to reduce the risk of fires being started by helicopters, including not using certain aircraft lighting in extreme weather conditions.
A Territory-wide State of Emergency was issued on Friday 31 January due to the combination of extreme heat, wind, and a dry landscape forecast for the weekend, but was downgraded to a State of Alert on Sunday 2 February as a result of successful fire-containment operations and more favourable weather conditions.
A State of Alert was expected to remain in place for rural and remote parts of the Territory, with the Orroral Valley fire still active in Namadgi National Park.
In a statement on Sunday 2 February, ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentlemen said that the fire will continue to burn through the Namadgi National Park.
“The fire has unfortunately burnt through close to 50% of the National Park, and this is likely to grow throughout the week. It is a significant ecological disaster for the Territory, and there will be ramifications that we will need to address in due course,” the Minister said.
“However, we are hugely thankful to our emergency services agencies, as well as those from interstate and overseas, who came to our aid over the past two days.”
Illustrating the challenge of the weekend’s conditions, preliminary data from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) suggests a record overnight minimum temperature.
Saturday evening’s temperature dropped to 25.5oC, the previous record was 24.1oC from the Canberra Airport Comparison site on 6 February 1973. This was beaten again on Sunday 2 February with a recorded minimum of 26.7oC, the warmest on record in Canberra for any month.
Preliminary data also suggests Saturday was the hottest February day on record with 42.7oC, up on the previous record of 42.2oC recorded at the Canberra Airport Comparison site on 1 February 1968.