NSW, Sydney bushfires: Suburbs near bushland in catastrophic danger
Although the entire Greater Sydney region will experience “catastrophic” fire conditions today, authorities have clarified those at the greatest risk are in “bush prone” areas.
“Please make sure you heed the messages no matter where you are, whether you are in our regions, whether you are in metropolitan areas,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said this morning.
“Anywhere near bushland is at threat today.
“We need to make sure every community member takes the opportunity to assess their situation and act with precaution in every possible manner.”
The Greater Sydney area spans west to the Blue Mountains and north to the Central Coast.
The Greater Hunter and Illawarra/Shoalhaven areas, including Wollongong to the south of Sydney, have also been given a catastrophic fire danger rating for Tuesday — as bad as it gets.
Follow our live coverage of the NSW and Queensland bushfires here.
“Is the NSW RFS telling people to evacuate? No,” the service tweeted overnight.
“A simple thing to do is avoid bush fire prone areas.
“Safer areas may be a large town or city, shopping centres or facilities far away from bushland areas.”
Yesterday, NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said under the warning, symbolised by thick black and red lines, people “can expect the most extraordinary fire behaviour”.
“It is not without question that spotting activity can be well and truly over 20 kilometres ahead of the main fire front,” he said.
Download the Fires Near Me NSW smartphone app for iOS and Android devices here.
Tuesday marks the first day since the new NSW fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009 that Sydney has been considered at a “catastrophic” risk.
Almost a third of those are on Sydney’s north shore including about 15,000 properties across Turramurra, Hornsby, Wahroonga and Thornleigh.
Springwood in the Blue Mountains has almost 6500 properties close to or in the bush, with another 4000 in neighbouring Blaxland.
Almost 9000 homes in Engadine and Menai, to the south of the city in the Sutherland Shire, are also considered at-risk areas, according to the Risk Frontiers modelling.
The data analysis revealed barely any properties in the inner west, eastern suburbs or western suburbs surrounding Parramatta were within 100m of bushland.
The consultancy’s resilience general manager Andrew Gissing said when looking back at devastating bushfires in the past, such as Tathra in 2018, the distance from the bushland is the single most important factor determining the probability of a building being destroyed.
He told the SMH the vast majority of homes destroyed in fires are within 500m of bushland.
The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast hot, sunny and windy conditions in Sydney today with a “gusty southerly change” in the early evening.
A smoke haze settled over Sydney on Tuesday morning. The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has issued a “poor” air quality forecast for the city due to elevated levels of “atmospheric particulate matter” across the day.
The RFS commissioner expanded on his comments on Tuesday.
“Under the catastrophic conditions, not being in bush fire prone areas is clearly the safest option,” Mr Fitzsimmons said this morning.
“Leaving early and leaving well ahead of any fire in your area is the safest option.
“Safest options might include going to a local shopping centre, going into town where you’re not in the bushfire prone area.
“We’ve deliberately closed parks, we’ve deliberately closed open areas, it’s all in the interests of safety.”
Emergency Services Minister David Elliott said today is “a day to mitigate for your own risk”.
“That means that under legislation, it is the law for you to obey the directions of any RFS officer or any other emergency service officer for your own safety,” he said.
“No ifs, no buts. You’ve got to do it.”
There are 3000 firefighters deployed or on standby across NSW today.
Originally published as Sydney suburbs in bushfire danger