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23 Jan 2020 | 05:45 AM UTC

Australia: High temperatures and strong winds reignite bushfires in southeast prompting brief closure at Canberra Airport (CBR) January 23 /update 37

Strong winds and soaring temperatures reignite bushfires and engulf Canberra in smoke January 23; Canberra Airport (CBR) briefly closes



Fires were reignited in New South Wales (NSW) on Wednesday, January 22, amid 41° C (106° F) temperatures and high winds near Sydney. As of Thursday, January 23, firefighters are battling 17 fires in Victoria and over 90 fires in NSW, including one in the Snowy Mountains area and another in Bega Valley. Authorities have issued non-mandatory evacuation orders for residents in Snowy Mountains and Bega Valley. Smoke from the fires has cloaked Canberra and Sydney, prompting the government to issue poor air quality and visibility alerts.

The fires' recurrence forced Canberra Airport (CBR) to suspend operations for about six hours on Thursday afternoon (local time) to facilitate emergency service operations, though reopened at roughly 20:00. Residual disruptions are to be expected over the coming hours, notably flights operated by Virgin, Tiger, and Singapore Airlines to and from CBR have been canceled for the remainder of the day.

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 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. Those traveling via CBR are advised to monitor the situation and contact their airline for more information. 

Due to health risks associated with air pollution, it is advised to limit outdoor activities. Pollution is especially hazardous to vulnerable individuals (e.g. children, seniors, pregnant women, and individuals suffering from asthma and other respiratory issues). If experiencing breathing difficulties, seek medical attention, particularly if new symptoms appear (e.g. cough, sore throat, irritated eyes).