New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian has declared a state of emergency as bushfires continue to ravage the state. It comes as Greater Sydney’s fire danger rating for Tuesday November 12 was raised to “catastrophic”.
Temperatures are expected to rise above 30 degrees tomorrow, with winds of up to 50kmh causing dangerous conditions. The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has advised people in the Greater Sydney region, which includes the central coast and Blue Mountains, to avoid bushfire-prone areas and, if unable to leave the area, identify a safe location nearby.
At least 65 fires are currently burning across the state, with more than half of those uncontained. A total fire ban is in place across the state, and the state of emergency will remain in place for seven days.
This is the first state of emergency declared in NSW since the 2013 Blue Mountains bushfires, which killed two people and destroyed more than 200 homes. It’s also the first time the RFS has given Sydney the maximum warning since new fire ratings were introduced following the Victoria’s Black Saturday fires in 2009.
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has told reporters that the fire conditions predicted for tomorrow are very similar to those that caused the Black Saturday fires, in which 173 people were killed and thousands of buildings destroyed. In NSW, more than 150 buildings have been razed so far, and three lives were lost in the fires burning in northern parts of the state.
A spokesperson for the RFS told the Sydney Morning Herald that people should avoid forested areas around Hornsby, the Blue Mountains, Lane Cove and parts of Sutherland Shire. More than 55 schools across NSW have closed, as well as six TAFE campuses. All state parks north of the Hawkesbury River closed at 8am today until further notice.
Fitzsimmons says the RFS can’t guarantee a fire truck at every home or that people will receive warnings if there are fires nearby. Both Fitzsimmons and Berejiklian say there’s a high degree of unpredictably during a catastrophic fire event, meaning everyone must be on alert and people may not receive much warning before fire strikes their area.
During a state of emergency, the RFS commissioner has the power to override the authority of any government agency; control the allocation of government resources; evacuate people from property; close roads; demolish or shore up infrastructure at risk of collapse; order the shutdown of gas, electricity, oil and water services; and enter or take control of property.
Train services from Sydney to Grafton, Casino and Brisbane today and tomorrow are cancelled.