South Australia prepares for bushfires ahead of catastrophic fire danger day

| 20.11,19. 11:33 AM |

South Australia prepares for bushfires ahead of catastrophic fire danger day

Photo: A sign on Adelaide's South-Eastern Freeway urges Adelaide Hills residents to activate their bushfire survival plans. (ABC News)

South Australia's Country Fire Service (CFS) has warned people in extreme and catastrophic fire danger areas to enact their bushfire survival plans today.

Catastrophic conditions have been forecast for the eastern and lower Eyre Peninsula, the Yorke Peninsula, the west coast, the Mid North, Kangaroo Island and the Mount Lofty Ranges, while the rest of the state has an extreme or severe rating.

A total fire ban is in place across South Australia for Wednesday, with many locations set to reach temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

CFS assistant chief officer Brenton Eden said the terrible conditions would be unrelenting.

"From sunrise until well past midnight, this state is going to experience very difficult fire conditions," he said.

"They will challenge the fire service to control them and, as people will have seen in NSW, should a fire start, the fire activity will be intense, it will be fast and it will be difficult to control."

This morning Mr Eden said while the CFS was prepared, the conditions were expected to be as bad as the state has experienced for several years.

"These are the worst fire conditions we've experienced since going back to Pinery four years ago where we lost 85,000 hectares and [had] two fatalities in that tragic accident," he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

"We've got 10,000 firefighters in the CFS ready to go.

"For our volunteers some of them will already be at the station, many will be rostered into shifts for today and tonight."

He said it was vital for those in bushfire-prone areas, particularly in the Adelaide Hills, to be prepared and also called for workers to be mindful when using power tools.

"Anyone using tools on the landscape should be very mindful today that any fire that starts will immediately be in conditions that are most unlikely for us to be able to extinguish," he said.

"We don't want to see tens of thousands of people driving down the South Eastern Freeway if the freeway and the Adelaide Hills is in a danger zone.
"One way to avoid that is for people who don't need to be in the Adelaide Hills today to have already made a decision to move elsewhere."

Lincoln CFS captain Greg Napier said stickybeaks should stay away from burning fires.

"Stay away — stay off the roads … in a fire they are a dangerous place to be," Mr Napier said.

"They are a threat to our firefighters and they are a threat to people on the road.

"We don't need onlookers around our fires blocking access, gates and waterpoints."

SA Police has also sent out a reminder to the public to be mindful of risky behaviour in fire-prone areas.

As part of Operation Nomad, police patrols will target fire-prone areas throughout the state today to detect fire activity or risky behaviour, as well as focus on arsonists within the community.

Assistant Commissioner Noel Bamford told ABC Radio Adelaide there were 81 people in South Australia that police considered "persons of interest".

"They've either got convictions for lighting fires or intelligence suggests they have a propensity to do that," he said.

He said except for six people who were currently in prison, police would be checking on the majority of the other persons of interest.

"Just to remind these people that we know who they are, we know where they live," he said.

"We want to make sure they are behaving themselves."

Highest number of school closures

The Department for Education has announced 111 schools and kindergartens will be closed today, including 65 in the Mount Lofty Ranges.

The department's executive director for infrastructure Ross Treadwell said the closures would allow families in high-risk areas to enact bushfire plans.

"When we had some of our previous closures we've had large numbers, but certainly from my recollection this is one of the highest school closures that we've done," Mr Treadwell said.

Chantal Berry from Basket Range, in the Adelaide Hills, has prepared her action plan and will join her children in Adelaide this morning.

"If there's a fire, no-one's really going to be able to do that much to stop it going through, so the more we can do in advance to help protect our property and our house the better it's going to be," Ms Berry said.

She prepared her home for the fire conditions earlier this week.

"We try to clear everything away that's wooden or soft, like curtains, anything that's outside — clean out the gutters, make sure the rainwater tanks are full, just make sure everything is in place so if there is a fire, someone can protect the house for us," she said.

She said it was important that the whole community was as prepared as they could be.

"If a fire does start we don't want to leave in a panic, we want to leave nice and calm," she said.

"It just means that we're out of the way in the event that there is a fire."

She said her community had been very supportive in getting ready for today and staying safe was the top priority.

"Everyone is really supportive of each other in the decision each family makes," she said.

"Stay safe, look after your families first, make sure all the kids and the animals are safe … properties come second."

Twelve national parks will be closed across the state, including Belair National Park and the Adelaide International Bird Sanctuary.

Keep cool in hot weather

The Red Cross is encouraging South Australians to take care of vulnerable community members during the hot weather today.

The SA Housing Authority has also this morning issued a state-wide "code red" for people sleeping rough.

A top of 42C is forecast for Adelaide.

The record November temperature for Adelaide's West Terrace weather station is 42.7C, set in 1962.

Murray Bridge, Waikerie and Ceduna are heading for 45C, while the Bureau of Meteorology has tipped a high of 48C for Oak Valley, in the state's far west.

Red Cross Adelaide and South East regional services manager David Walshaw said people should check on their neighbours' welfare.

"We'd ask that people, if they have the time, just to knock on their neighbour's door to check that they're OK and to ensure that they're being well catered for in this hot temperature," he said.

"… Elderly people particularly and young people do dehydrate very quickly so we want them to get a water bottle and keep it with them and remind themselves to drink water.

"If you can, add a permanent or temporary shade structure to your windows, especially on the north-facing walls, just to keep that heat out."

State Emergency Service spokesman Jon Carr said the winds were likely to bring down trees and branches, particularly in heavily wooded areas such as the Mount Lofty Ranges and the Fleurieu Peninsula.

"Trees are going to come down tomorrow for sure," he said. "Be very mindful of where you're parking your car."


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