By Clare Sibthorpe, Staff
Twitter was littered with photos of the bushfire seen on the hills behind Canberra on Thursday night. (Twitter: AJ Johnston)
An out-of-control bushfire in the ACT’s south-west has burned through dozens of hectares, reaching just 8 kilometres away from the nearest suburb this morning.
Authorities upgraded the alert for the blaze at Pierces Creek to “watch and act” at 6:00am and urged people to enact their fire plans.
By 7:00am, the fire had burned 64 hectares.
ACT Fire and Rescue’s Commander Paul Flynn said fire crews endured terrible conditions and fast-growing flames overnight.
He said the dry and warm conditions made for a perfect storm for the 27 firefighting crews, with temperatures staying at around 25 degrees Celsius with less than 30 per cent humidity.
“Which is terrible conditions for overnight firefighting — normally overnight firefighting is good,” he said.
Commander Flynn hoped conditions would allow three helicopters to monitor the situation within the next hour.
“But we are expecting conditions maybe even too windy for them to operate later on, so we’re going to do as much as we can as early as we can,” he said.
“I’ve got fire and rescue crews, when they get on, to get out there and contact rural lease contacts in the area either by phone or by presence in the area.”
About 150 Year Three and Four students from Miles Franklin Primary School, who have been at the Birrigai Outdoor School at Tidbinbilla, will be evacuated later with buses brought in as early as possible.
The Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve will close for the day.
Emergency Services Agency ACT Commissioner Dominic Lane said the fire started from a burnt-out car and took hold in the neighbouring pine forest.
He said concerns were growing.
“We are going to see some strong west to north-westerly winds throughout the day, looking to peek at about 1:00pm this afternoon, potentially gusting to about 60 kilometre per hour winds,” he said.
“Most people in our community know what that means in terms of fire behaviour. So we could see significant fire behaviour — we could see spotting well ahead of this main fire.”
A total fire ban will be in place across the ACT from 9:00am.