4:37pm: Springwood nursing home residents are in the process of being evacuated to hospitals and aged care facilities in western Sydney, Emma Partridge reports.
Endeavour nursing home managing director Gary Barnier said all families would be contacted once their loved ones had arrived at their destination.
Earlier on Tuesday 55 residents who lived in assisted living units on Hawkesbury Road were evacuated and taken by bus to Rooty Hill.
They would spend the night at the Novotel.
Another 63 nursing home residents were being moved with the help of the Ambulance Service of NSW to five other nursing homes owned by the Domain Principal Group.Others would be moved to Campbelltown and Liverpool hospitals.
“It’s well under control, it’s all very calm,” Mr Barnier said.
4:33pm: More on Wednesday’s horror forecast.
Sydney is one place where the maximum temperature has been bumped up, with 35 now expected, up from 32 earlier, Peter Hannam reports.
Penrith and Richmond can expect maximum of 34.
Importantly the expected winds look like being roughly as predicted with 30-45km/h average winds tipped for Penrith.
The gusts, though, will be crucial.
4:28pm: To give an idea of just how concerned the Rural Fire Service is about conditions in the Blue Mountains tomorrow, Sarah Whyte reports that an extra 1,400 fire fighters are being sent there tomorrow. There are 1,000 on the ground there already.
4:17pm: NSW Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has just begun his latest briefing and he has already issued this grim warning.
“The forecast and scenario for tomorrow is about as bad as it gets,” he says.
The revised forecast is for temperatures in the mid to high 30s, with humidity down to 10 per cent.
Strong winds are forecast with gusts of between 80km/h to 100km/h.
He’s urged everyone who does not need to be in the Blue Mountains on Wednesday to be out of the region by 10am.
4:06pm: Danger zones: the affected areas, compared with the size of Sydney Harbour.
4:02pm: The Rural Fire Service says the school closure in place for the Blue Moutains tomorrow also includes pre-schools and daycare centres.
4:02pm: A directive has been sent to principals across the state that students not participate on school sports as this “poses a potential health risk to students, particularly those with asthma or heart conditions”. It follows an alert issued by NSW Health on Monday that people not engage in physical activity outside given the current air quality due to bushfires, particularly between Wollongong and Newcastle.
3:17pm: Here is the list of current school closures for Wednesday from the Rural Fire Service:
- Catholic and Independent schools in the Blue Mountains local government area
- Bargo Public School
- Buxton Public School
- Comleroy Road Public School
- Hill Top Public School
- Grose View Public School
- Kurrajong North Public School
- East Kurrajong Public School
- Wilton Public School
- Yanderra Public School
Additional closures may be announced later this afternoon.
2:53pm: RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says along with the Blue Mountains, schools in other fire affected areas will be closed on Wednesday. Full details will be made available after discussions have been held with the Education Department.
“This is not a day off school,” Mr Fitzsimmons said. “I would encourage every parent to know where their children are. This is not a day to hang out with mates.”
Residents in the Blue Mountains should tonight work out their bushfire survival plan. Mr Fitzsimmons said if people plan to leave, rather than to stay and defend their homes, they should leave, and leave early.
“Tomorrow morning, before lunch, make your journey before lunchtime tomorrow,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“Go somewhere outside of the Blue Mountains region.”
The three nursing homes being evacuated at Springwood this afternoon are:
- Principal Endeavour – 60 residents have been taken to the Springwood evacuation centre.
- Buckland Nuring Home – residents have been moved to Summit Care at St Marys
- Uniting Care Springwood Village – residents hav been taken to Edinglassie Village at Emu Plains
2:18pm: NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons says the latest forecast for Wednesday is more alarming than what had already been expected.
In his 2pm update, he said the latest update he received just five minutes ago is for tomorrow to be even “drier and hotter” than what had been previously forecast.
“The conditions are forecast to be worse tomorrow than what we have been talking about for the last few days,” he said.
All schools in the Blue Mountains will be closed on Wednesday. Nursing home patients in Springwood are currently being relocated.
He says the entire fire situation in the Blue Mountains remains a “volatile and dynamic operation” for his crews. No one should be fooled by cooler conditions today about the risks ahead.
“We need to be really clear here, we cannot afford for complacency .. this cool change which has moved in is not what we need to be concerned about,” Mr Fitzsimmons said.
“We need to be focused on what is expected to come tomorrow.
“It’s going to be a difficult and challenging day.”
2:00pm: Volunteer Justin Cant from Hawkesbury headquarters RFS brigade said he came up with the technique of “banksia bombing” after the crew couldn’t backburn over the edge of the escarpment with a driptorch.
“Because the escarpment’s so deep we can’t get down there,” he told Leesha McKenny.
“We were trying branches before but they were going out before they hit the ground, but a banksia holds enough fuel that it stays alight.”
NSW Rural Fire Service Crews from Hawkesbury Headquarters in property protection mode throw burning Banksia cones off an escarpment as they commence a back burn north of the Bells Line of Road between Berambing and Bilpin. Photo: Wolter Peeters
1:53pm: There are some remarkable measures being taken by Rural Fire Service crews in carrying out property protection north of the Bells Line of Road in Berambing and Bilpin.
Leesha McKenny is with a crew backburning behind a house and along a escarpment that’s too dangerous for them to climb down, so they improvised and have been lighting banksias and hurling them down.
Photographer Wolter Peeters has captured this “banksia bombing” method in action.
Banksia bombing … NSW Rural Fire Service Crews in property protection mode throw burning Banksia cones off an escarpment as they commence a back burn north of the Bells Line of Road between Berambing and Bilpin. Photo: Wolter Peeters
1:38pm: Here is Premier Barry O’Farrell and Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher getting the latest from Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
1:20pm: The 11-year-old boy charged with lighting two fires, including the 5000 hectare Heatherbrae blaze at Port Stephens has pleaded not guilty, Stephen Ryan from The Newcastle Herald reports.
He has been granted strict conditional bail and will be under house arrest with his mum.
1:17pm: NSW Governor Marie Bashir has visited the NSW Rural Fire Service headquarters at Lidcombe this morning, Sarah Whyte reports.
Premier Barry O’Farrell is also back to get an updated briefing on the situation, along with Emergency Services Minister Mike Gallacher.
1:14pm: It now seems that light rainfall in Lithgow has stopped.
1:12pm: “It’s been a race against the clock,” said an RFS spokesman, Joel Kursawe.
The rush is to ensure authorities and communities are as prepared as possible before the advent of deteriorating fire conditions expected on Wednesday.
Westerlies are likely to range from 35-50 km/h during tomorrow, with gusts up to 90 km/h, Mr Kursawe said, citing the latest information.
Some 750 firefighters are active in the field today, with 90 aircraft deployed or on standby.About 250 firies from inter-state have arrived, with the number to swell to 750 by the day’s end.
Victorians lead the tally, with 370 expected, and 200 from SA, with the ACT supplying about 50.
12:56pm: At 12:45 today – we have 60 bushfires burning across NSW, 15 of which remain uncontained.
No emergency warnings are in place however four major fires are burning at the second highest alert level of watch and act.
They are the fires that started near Lithgow and is now burning in on the western side of the Blue Mountains with the Mount Victoria fire. The Springwood fire is burning to the east of those fires and the Balmoral village fire is still under watch and act in the Southern Highlands.
Peter Hannam reports the RFS says there are reports of light showers in Lithgow and in the Blue Mountains but it is “just a spattering”.
Fire fighters in NSW are currently being assisted by 250 who have come in from interstate and that number will triple by the end of the day.
There are 90 aircraft either deployed, or on standby, for the fire effort.
12:40pm: I’m going to hand back over to Nick Ralston now who will keep you updated into the afternoon and evening.
I’ll be back on from 6am tomorrow.
Good luck and stay safe.
12:37pm: When the fires pass, there is going to be a huge recovery effort.
If you’re interested in volunteering, go to www.emergencyvolunteering.com.au and select “I want to be an emergency volunteer” button to register your offer of help.
If your availability, location and skills match the organisations’ needs, you may be contacted to help out.
12:29pm: The Disaster Recovery Allowance just announced will provide fortnightly income assistance to the maximum rate under Newstart for up to 13 weeks.
It is available only to people who have lost income as a result of the bushfires.
You can contact the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Assistance Hotline at 180 22 66.
12:21pm: For residents of the Blue Mountains, there are a number of community meetings tonight.
Katoomba and Leura: 5.30pm at Katoomba Christian Convention Centre at Cliff Drive, Katoomba
Warrimoo and Sun Valley: 7.30pm at Warrimoo Citizens Hall, Great Western Highway
Blaxland, Mount Riverview and Glenbrook: 7.30pm at Blaxland High School, 3-9 Coughlan Rd, Blaxland
12:13pm: Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan has just announced Disaster Recovery Allowance will be available to people whose income has been affected by the NSW fires.
12:08pm: If you’re interested in the science behind fires, you’ll love this story from Nicky Phillips.
She explains how and why a bizarre weather phenomenon known as a fire cloud is likely to form over the Blue Mountains fire.
Under the right conditions, fires can actually create their own weather conditions, including lighting, strong winds and fire tornadoes.
What can we expect from fire behaviour?
Lightning generated by fire and fire tornadoes are all phenomena that maybe witnessed as the fires continue to rage across the Blue Mountains.
PT2M45S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vwsm 620 349 October 22, 2013 – 12:08PM
11:59am: It’s inspired plenty of impassioned responses this week, but the link between climate change and bushfires is back in the news again.
This time a senior UN climate change official says there is ”absolutely” a link between climate change and bushfires.
In an interview on CNN, the official also warned the Coalition government will pay a high political and financial price for its decision scrap carbon pricing.
Fires linked to climate change? ‘Absolutely’ says UN
Bushfires are becoming more common due to climate change, says the United Nation’s climate change chief Christiana Figueres.
PT2M48S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vy3l 620 349 October 22, 2013 – 11:59AM
11:50am: Firefighters from interstate will back up hundreds of NSW colleagues who are heading out to help rural crews.
Up to 170 NSW Fire and Rescue tankers and engines with almost 800 officers are being sent to fire-ravaged communities in the Blue Mountains on Tuesday.
Ten crews from Queensland and 10 from Melbourne will arrive in Sydney tomorrow to man metropolitan posts.
It’s one of the largest mobilisations in the history of Fire and Rescue NSW.
11:50am: People returning to homes gutted by the NSW bushfires won’t have to pay to get their destroyed passports replaced.
The federal government has announced that all fees will be waived for those seeking to replace passports lost or burned in the blazes.
It’ likely to be a tiny consolation. But I suppose every little bit helps.
11:42am: Oh dear, quick! The most valuable works at the Norman Lindsay Gallery, threatened by blazes in the Blue Mountains, are being rushed to a safe facility in Sydney.
The historic gallery at Faulconbridge has been on high alert since the destructive blazes broke out.
11:35am: The Salvation Army Bushfire Appeal has so far collected $ 1.2 million.
Here’s how you can donate to the Salvos and other charities.
salvos.org.au; 13 72 58
Red Cross Disaster Relief and Recovery
redcross.org.au; 1800 811 700
St Vincent de Paul Society NSW Bushfire Appeal
vinnies.org.au; 13 18 12
Woolworths stores are accepting donations for the Salvos and will match public donations dollar-for-dollar.
Coles stores are accepting donations for the Red Cross.
11:26am: A recovery centre for people affected by bushfires has opened at Springwood.
It is operating out of the Presbyterian Church Hall on Macquarie Road.
There will be representatives for:
Disaster Welfare Services, Rural Fire Service, Police, NSW Health, Legal Aid, Centrelink, Medicare, Housing, Insurance Council of Australia and major insurance companies.
The centre will operate between 8am and 6pm daily.
11:22am: More from RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons.
“I plead with people don’t be complacent. Rain will have negligible effect with only a few mls likely”.
“Fires are consuming 120,000 hectares. There’s no meaningful relief in sight.”
He says 90 aircraft are helping fight fires, the majority in the Blue Mountains.
11:18am: RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons is holding a press conference right now.
He says there is very real potential the bushfire dangers could escalate this afternoon.
“We are now only 24 hours away from when we will see the worst of this week’s fire conditions.”
He says a ‘‘fairly active storm cell’’ was tracking near Bathurst, heading towards the back the Blue Mountains.
Wind gusts of 70km/h had already been recorded in that storm cell.
“That’s about to come across towards the fire grounds. That then translates to very dangerous, very difficult fire behaviour.’’
11:03am: This has just come in from reporter Sarah Whyte who is stationed at RFS headquaters in Lidcombe.
Elvis, The Erikson Air-Crane, may have left the building but two other sky cranes, Gypsy Lady and Ichabod, have been put to action to help battle the NSW fires.
Flown in from Greece, the two cranes, have both been battling the fires since Sunday, Rural Fire Service spokesman Ben Shepherd said.
Gypsy Lady was flown up to Port Stephens on Thursday.
“Elvis is not coming,” Mr Shepherd said.
The air-cranes, make up a fleet of 100 aircraft involved in the bush fire effort.
10:53am: SMH photographer Wolter Peeters took this photo of one of the many “thank you” signs for fire fighters lining the roads in the Blue Mountains.
A sign in Kurrajong Heights on the Bells Line of Road thanking the fire fighters for their efforts. Photo: Wolter Peeters
10:43am: It seems our firefighters have been given more food than they can stomach.
10:41am: We shouldn’t get too excited about reports of rain in the Blue Mountains.
‘‘It’s a quite minimal amount,’’ a Bureau of Meteorology spokeswoman told AAP. ‘‘We’re not expecting significant rain, unless we’re very lucky.”
A possible thunderstorm in the afternoon could also pose more problems for firefighters if lightning sparks further blazes.
10:37am: Thick plumes of smoke from the fires are likely to hang over Sydney for days to come.
And health authorities are bracing for an increase in hospital admissions and sickness as Sydney’s air quality drops to levels not seen since the Red Dawn dust storms four years ago.
Asthma sufferers, young children, people with cardiovascular disease and the elderly should stay indoors and not open windows while smoke was visible.
NSW Health has advice for staying healthy during the fires here.
And you can check the air quality in your area with this government Air Quality Index, updated hourly.
Air quality ‘hazardous’
Smoke from bushfires will likely remain in the Sydney area for the next few days. Children, older adults and people with lung conditions should be cautious, warns Professor Wayne Smith from NSW Health.
PT1M2S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vwmd 620 349 October 21, 2013
10:26am: Police are warning of asbestos hazards in buildings destroyed by fires.
If your home or your neighbour’s home was constructed before 1987 then it can potentially have asbestos containing materials.
You should take the following precautions:
- Check with emergency services it is safe to re-enter your property
- Houses with asbestos debris should be assessed by a licensed Asbestos Assessor
- A type “P2″ dust mask and disposable coveralls should be worn where asbestos may be disturbed
You can get more information at the EPA’s website.
Mike Gallacher. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers
10:18am: Emergency Minister Mike Gallacher held a press conference a short time ago.
‘‘The firefighters in the field have actually confronted the fire threat to the Blue Mountains rather than waiting for that threat to come to Sydney.”
‘‘Whilst it is promising, we should not be complacent. This fire is still alive. It’s still a risk.’’
10:16am: Here’s the most recent update of school closures:
Faulconbridge Public School – Tue 22 October
Springwood High School – Tue 22 October
Blacktown Youth College, Lawson – Tue 22 and Wed 23 October
Korowal School, Hall Parade, Hazelbrook – Tue 22 and Wed 23 October
St Columba’s College, Springwood – Tue 22 to Fri 25 October
St Thomas Aquinas School, Springwood – Tue 22 to Fri 25 October
Wycliffe Christian School, Warrimoo is open Tue 22 October
Bilpin Public School – Tue 22 October
Korowal School – Tue 22 and Wed 23 October
MET School, Mount Victoria – Tue 22 and Wed 23 October
Blacktown Youth College, Lawson – Tue 22 and Wed 23 October
Hill Top Public School – Tuesday 22 October
Yanderra Public School – closed until further notice
10:05am: Here’s a brief wrap of the major fires:
- State Mine Fire (between Lithgow and Bilpin): A fire is threatening homes near Bell. Also burning around Mt Irvine, McKellars Park, Bilpin, Hartley Vale, Dargan and Clarence.
- Linksview Road Fire (Springwood): Immediate threat to properties around Chapman Parade has eased, but people in this area should continue to monitor conditions.
- Mount York Road Fire (Mount Victoria): As a result of backburning operations, people in the Blackheath area may see an increase in fire and smoke. The threat to the Great Western Highway has been reduced. Other areas that may come under threat are Kanimbla Valley, Megalong Valley, Hartley Vale and Blackheath.
- Hall Road Fire (Southern Highlands): Firefighters are continuing to consolidate containment lines and patrol. Picton Road is now open.
9:59am: The State Mine Fire burning between Lithgow and Bilpin has just been downgraded from ‘Emergency Warning’ to ‘Watch and Act’.
9:56am: The chief executive of the Board of Studies NSW, Carol Taylor, just spoke to ABC radio about HSC students affected by the bushfires.
‘‘I’ve been very, very impressed with the way students have handled this situation.’’
‘‘They really are seeing the perspective we’ve got to put this into.’’
‘‘It’s a case by case judgment, of course, but clearly there are students who are going to be disrupted in many different ways.’’
9:51am: Bells Line of Road remains closed between Bilpin and Lithgow.
Darling Causeway remains closed between Bell and Mt Victoria.
Motorists should exercise extreme caution in areas experiencing heavy smoke and poor visibility.
9:49am: All bus routes in the Blue Mountains region are affected by the bush fires.
Passengers are advised to avoid all non essential travel.
9:48am: Due to bushfires causing rail damage, trains are not operating between Bathurst, Lithgow and Mount Victoria.
Buses are replacing trains and stop at Bathurst, Lithgow and Mount Victoria only.
9:46am: Much of what our firefighters are doing today will be trying to get into the best possible position ahead of tomorrow.
Winds may gust to 80-90 km/h.
Peter Hannam reports, unlike last Thursday when there the State Mine fire near Lithgow was much smaller, firefighters now have to contend with a much larger blaze and dozens of others burning across NSW.
Good news is fire conditions should abate after this week, with the prospect of cooler temperatures and fewer vigorous fronts moving through the state over the next couple of weeks at least.
9:35am: Firefighters have deliberately joined two major bushfires in the Blue Mountains.
Megan Levy reports the merger was done in a controlled way, as an attempt to get on top of the fires before atrocious weather conditions tomorrow.
It was a bold strategy to try to stop them forming what’s being called a ‘‘mega-fire’’ with a third uncontained fire at Springwood.
Challenging conditions ahead for firefighters
Firefighters conducting backburning on the Darling Causeway describe the dangers they face and thank the support of the local community.
PT1M24S http://www.smh.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vvtz 620 349 October 21, 2013
9:31am: We’ve just had a light sprinkle of rain in the Blue Mountains.
But we’d need a lot more of it to provide any real reprieve for our firies.
There is a chance of thunderstorms today, mainly in the west.
The forecast today has a top of 28 degrees in the city and 34 degrees in the west.
Unfortunately, we’re expecting temperatures in the mid to high 30s in the west tomorrow and winds of up to 100km/h.
9:25am: Good morning Sydney.
There are still more than 60 fires burning across the state today, with 13 out of control.
The most concerning is still the State Mine Fire between Lithgow and Bilpin.
That fire continues to burn around the areas of Bell, Mt Irvine, McKellars Park, Bilpin, Hartley Vale, Dargan and Clarence.
We’ll have updates for you throughout the day on all the bushfire threats.