Travellers planning to head to Canberra should be advised that raging bushfires have caused a state of emergency to be declared for the Australian Capital Territory. In what has become the worst fire threat to the territory since the devastating fires of 2003, the main blaze is burning in an area south of Canberra.
At present, an 18,000-hectare fire is raging out of control in the Orroral Valley in Namadgi National Park, with strong winds threatening to propel it beyond the control of firefighters. This represents 8% of the territory's landmass, and temperatures are forecast to rise to over 30°C in the coming days, which could see condition worsen. Residents in its suburbs have been advised to remain alert for potential evacuations. “The combination of extreme heat, wind and a dry landscape will place suburbs at Canberra’s south at risk in [the] coming days," warned the territory's chief minister, Andrew Barr.
The ACT Emergency Services Agency has warned that homes in the rural area are under threat, and residents in some areas have been advised to leave if it is safe to do. A second fire known as the Clear Range fire has started in the Michelago area, over the border in New South Wales, and it is burning at a "watch and act" level. The state of emergency declaration gives extra power and resources to fire authorities, and it will remain in place for as long as Canberra is at risk. It's a deeply worrying situation, as bushfires in the suburbs of Canberra killed four people, injured 500 and destroyed or damaged 470 homes in 2003. The current fires are likely to have awful repercussions for wildlife, as bushfires in New South Wales have already devastated wildlife in recent months.
While people around the world are rallying to help victims of the bushfires, authorities have also issued warnings against "disaster tourism," as people have been observed driving near active fire zones to take pictures. "I want to reinforce the message to disaster tourists that they're not welcome as this fire approaches," said Barr.