SYDNEY (Reuters), Jan 31 2020 - Australian officials declared a state of emergency for the capital city of Canberra and surrounding regions on Friday, as soaring temperatures and strong winds threatened to propel a large bushfire beyond the control of firefighters.
Andrew Barr, Chief Minister for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), said the decision to declare the first state of emergency since fatal wildfires in 2003 indicated the potential danger over the weekend.
Officials said an uncontrolled fire in the ACT’s south, on the doorstep of Canberra, had grown to 185 sq km, almost 8% of the territory’s land mass.
“This fire may become very unpredictable. It may become uncontrollable,” Barr told reporters in a televised briefing. “The combination of extreme heat, wind, and a dry landscape will place suburbs in Canberra’s south at risk.” The state of emergency declared on Friday will run for 72 hours, giving authorities greater powers to order evacuations, close roads and take control of private property.