Parts of Sydney left with dangerous air quality amid hazard reduction burns across NSW
7th May 2016
Hazard reduction burns across New South Wales have left parts of Sydney with dangerous air quality, with the east and north-west hardest hit.
- More than 40 controlled burns across state
- RFS taking advantage of favourable conditions
- People with respiratory conditions told to stay indoors
- Most fires to last one day, some up to five
Department of Environment New South Wales air quality figures show heavy smoke from the burns elevated particle and visibility pollutants to a hazardous level in most of Sydney.
Air quality ratings eased after midday on Saturday, but remain hazardous in Rozelle, in Sydney’s east, and St Marys and Prospect in the west.
Tomorrow’s air quality is predicted to be poor, with the Rural Fire Service (RFS) saying that some smoke is expected to linger in the Sydney basin.
On Saturday, the area affected by the smoke stretched from Sydney’s coastline, south to the Illawarra region and across the western Suburbs into the Blue Mountains.
The RFS said rain forecast for Sunday afternoon might hamper efforts to continue with further hazard reduction.
RFS spokesman Brendan Doyle said smoke might still be around tomorrow, but should continue to clear now that a large amount of the burning has been done.
“We may still see, in the morning, the smoke laying in those low-lying areas,” he said.
“What we ask people to do, if you are affected by the smoke, is stay indoors and only call Triple Zero if you see a fire without a fire truck in attendance.”
Mr Doyle said hundreds of firefighters were involved in more than 40 controlled fires across the state this weekend.
“In a year, it can be as few as 20 to 30 days where we have opportunities to burn, so we’re taking every opportunity,” he said.
People with respiratory conditions including asthma have been warned to stay indoors until the smoke subsides, which could be up to several days in some areas.
RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons defended the timing of the burning, which had been questioned on social media as kids sport and weekend activities were affected, particularly for children with asthma.
“Yes, I acknowledge there’s been inconvenience and concerns over smoke haze that’s been around for a few hours today in the Sydney basin, but that’s a lot better than a few hours of uncontrollable fires burning across the landscape and consuming hundreds and hundreds of homes,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said on Saturday.
Mr Doyle said some fires would continue across five days but many of the burns this weekend would only last the day.
“What it’s all about is reducing those fuels on the ground, so if a bushfire was to start in years to come, the fire intensity would be lower and it will give firefighters the opportunity to contain those fires to much smaller sizes,” Mr Doyle said.
The main source of the Sydney smoke is coming from the Blue Mountains, where crews are aiming to burn nearly 11,900 hectares of bushland in the Wollemi National Park, south west of Broke and west of Putty.
The Blue Mountains reduction began on Friday and is expected to carry on for several days if the weather permits.
“Smoke from the burn may impact on the areas of Putty and Howes Valley for up to a week,” National Parks Wildlife Service area manager Peta Norris said in a statement.
“No roads will be closed but drivers in the area should take care, particularly on Putty Road, as smoke may affect visibility and fire fighting vehicles will be working in the area.