Representatives of Canberra Airport (CBR) confirmed at around 13:20 (local time) on Thursday, January 23, that nearby bushfires are affecting flight operations to and from CBR. While the airport has not been evacuated, airport officials are advising travelers to contact their airline for more information. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Emergency Services Agency (ESA) issued an emergency warning at 14:14 on Thursday after the Kallaroo Fire and the Pialligo Redwood Forest Fire merged. The ACT ESA is now calling it the Beard Fire and are advising individuals in Beard, Harman, Oaks Estate, Crestwood, Pialligo, and Brindabella Business Park are advised to seek shelter immediately as it is too late to evacuate, and to avoid driving in the area.
Fires continue to burn in Victoria and in New South Wales (NSW), where temperatures are forecast to hit 40°C (104°F) on Thursday. Officials have declared "extreme fire danger" in some areas due to high temperatures forecast over the coming days. Hazardous pollution levels are expected in Sydney on Thursday as smoke moves over the city.
Despite the recent rains, bush fires remain a threat in the region, particularly in NSW. According to the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS), as of Wednesday, there are still 66 active bush fires. A heightened security presence, road closures, telecommunication disruptions, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Up-to-date information on the fires in NSW can be found here, and in Victoria here.
Over 11 million hectares (27 million acres) of land have been burned, and at least 2500 houses destroyed since the wildfires broke out on October 9. At least 29 people have also died in the region as of January 22. Authorities have indicated that the fires were due to high temperatures and droughts.
Wildfires are an annual event in Australia between December and February; however, authorities have been on high alert since September 2015 over unseasonably warm temperatures, prompting scientists to speculate that climate change could be extending and increasing the intensity of the fire season.
Individuals traveling via CBR are advised to monitor the situation and contact their airline for more information.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, keep abreast of warnings, anticipate transportation and power disruptions, confirm road conditions prior to heading out, and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders.