News State ACT Relief in sight as fire crews expecting to bring south Canberra blaze under control
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Relief in sight as fire crews expecting to bring south Canberra blaze under control

canberra-bushfires
ACT firefighters continue to backburn in an effort to contain the Pierces Creek blaze. Photo: ABC News/Tom Lowrey
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An “erratic” bushfire that has been approaching south Canberra is expected to be brought under control later on Saturday, with last night’s thunderstorm creating more favourable conditions for crews.

The 189-hectare blaze, which is believed to have been sparked from a burnt-out car in Pierces Creek, was still seven kilometres from the nearest suburb of Kambah on Saturday afternoon.

It remained at the “advice” alert level it was downgraded to on Friday night.

There was no threat to property and no evacuations had been ordered for people or animals, the Emergency Services Agency ACT said.

Unlike on Friday, the ESA had not enforced a total fire ban in the ACT on Saturday, but the fire danger rating remained “very high”.

The agency’s ACT commissioner, Dominic Lane, said the Pierces Creek fire was still technically uncontrolled, but crews hoped to contain it by Saturday evening.

“We are fortunate that the thunderstorm yesterday afternoon dropped a couple of millimetres of rain over the fire ground,” he said.

“Whilst that brought significant damage, with 150 calls to SES to assist residents of the ACT, it did help out firefighters. It did help bring milder conditions over night and it did help our firefighters more safely get in and start establishing those containment lines.”

“We are really hoping that during the day we will be able to bring it into a controlled state.”

While the fire area had grown 14 hectares since the early morning, Mr Lane said that was mainly due to backburning efforts, as 13 ACT Rural Fire Service crews try to contain the bushfire with controlled flames.

Take interest in fire updates, authorities urge

Five helicopters, three bulldozers and two graders were supporting crews on the ground, with Mr Lane thanking local farmers for supporting waterbombing of the fire edge.

Despite the favourable turn of the weather, Mr Lane said community concern on Friday was warranted and urged residents not to become complacent.

“There should be concern on days like yesterday,” he said.

“Yesterday what we had was a day of very high fire danger, a fire burning to the west of Canberra out of control. And while it has not been controlled yet, it still remains a risk, and that has appeased for the moment. I would say to our Canberra community, continue to take interest.”

Even after the blaze is contained, the ESA said Canberrans will likely see smoke over the coming days as westerly winds drift over gusts from the fire-ground.

ACT Health urged people with asthma or other breathing difficulties not to exercise vigorously and stay indoors if affected by dust or smoke.

Storm blessing for firefighters, curse for SES

Firefighters were alarmed by the warm, dry and windy conditions they faced for the first 24 hours of battling the fire.

So the thunderstorm that hit on Friday afternoon brought some relief.

But that was not the case for the State Emergency Service ACT, with strong winds causing a backlog of jobs for volunteers to clean up on Saturday.

At Canberra Airport, travellers hinted at possible delays as they say the roof of a hangar fly off from the wind.

SES ACT duty officer Cameron Beresford said the 150 calls for help received were mainly due fallen trees in the Tuggeranong area, with the dry conditions of recent days causing entire root balls to be ripped out.

“We should be finished early this afternoon depending on some of these jobs that are still outstanding,” Mr Beresford said.

“There are obviously a couple of big jobs remaining that were no danger to the public overnight, but nonetheless are a big time-consuming job.”

Due to the Pierces Creek fire, Kambah Pool, Camp Cottermouth, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, Bullen Range Nature Reserve and Pierces Creek Forrest will be closed on Saturday.

Parts of Kambah Pool Road and Paddy’s River Road will also be blocked off.

-ABC