Tuesday, April 9, 2024
HomeaustralianzSmoke shrouds Sydney landmarks as risky bush fire season looms

Smoke shrouds Sydney landmarks as risky bush fire season looms

SYDNEY – A smoky haze blanketed Australia’s scenic Sydney Harbour on Wednesday as a ring of controlled blazes burned on the city’s fringes in preparation for the looming bush fire season.

Office workers could taste the smoke as they stepped off trains in the city’s business district, while wispy shrouds cloaked landmarks such as the Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House. Air pollution in parts of the city was comparable with that in Beijing or New Delhi, with residents warned to shut their windows and avoid venturing outside.

The smoke was produced by “hazard reduction burns” on Sydney’s forested outskirts, which have been lit by firefighters to reduce fuel loads ahead of risky bush fire conditions this summer.

New South Wales (NSW) Rural Fire Service inspector Ben Shepherd said that about 30,000ha of undergrowth had been burned across the state since the start of July. “It’s fair to say that, after two or three very wet years, the bush fire risk has returned to New South Wales,” he told AFP. “That is likely to lead to increased fire activity.”

The authorities have forecast that it will be Australia’s most intense bush fire season since the “Black Summer” of 2019 to 2020, when a series of out-of-control infernos raged across the eastern seaboard.

There are fears that unusually wet conditions since then have accelerated forest growth, increasing the amount of potential fuel for bush fires.

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Rob Rogers said those same damp conditions had hindered hazard reduction burns – meaning that the authorities had a lot of ground to make up.

“The last few years have been extremely wet and it has slowed down considerably how much burning we were able to do,” he told national broadcaster ABC.

“We are so far behind; we have to take advantage now” in this drier period, he said.

Australia’s national weather bureau has said the coming summer will be “warmer and drier than average”, and recently confirmed the country’s warmest winter on record. AFP

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