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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 2 Hansard (19 February) . . Page.. 322 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

Two of the initial fires joined to make one large bushfire front, which continued into the Stromlo pine forest, consuming significant standing pine plantation resources. It was necessary to close the Tuggeranong Parkway between Glenloch Interchange and the Hindmarsh Drive exit. Other roads closed were Lady Denman Drive, Cotter Road, Uriarra Road and the Coppins Crossing Road.

Our own emergency service volunteers were used to assist in roadblocks and then supported the SES volunteers from the New South Wales Southern Highlands district. The Australian Federal Police were also stretched through road closures and even precautionary broadcasts about the possible evacuation of areas where necessary.

The fires at Bruce Ridge spread quickly, threatening the Canberra Motor Village and the youth hostel near Dryandra Street. The Red Hill fire spread up the hill, forcing the evacuation and closure of Red Hill Carousel Restaurant for several days.

For the very first time in the ACT the standard emergency warning signal was broadcast on all radio stations for a two-hour period, giving an indication of the areas threatened and specific advice for people to assist in protecting their property.

The wind did not abate during the night, preventing any strong containment lines from being established.

At approximately 11 am on Christmas Day a fire started near the old Canberra Avenue near Harman and was quickly fanned towards Oaks Estate, burning into the old abattoir site. This brought potentially hazardous material involvement into the fire. The New South Wales Rural Fire Services took a significant suppression management role with this fire, although the ACT Fire Brigade had an ongoing involvement with a particular area near the abattoir.

On the afternoon of Christmas Day another fire started at Wanniassa Hills near Macarthur, which meant we then had five major fires being pushed by very strong winds in a fairly dispersed pattern around the ACT.

Smoke from these bushfires blanketed the city, activating dozens of automatic fire alarms that all needed response in the event that embers from the bushfires had started spot fires in or adjacent to buildings or that possibly there had been new structural fires.

In addition to the five major fires, the fire services responded to approximately 15 other fires, some small but others potentially threatening to residential areas. There were also a number of major vehicle accidents, which added to the already high workload of the ACT Fire Brigade and the Australian Federal Police. The picture is that of our services being severely stretched, and at the end of Christmas Day the executive director of the Emergency Services Bureau sought assistance from the Country Fire Authority in Victoria.

Mr Speaker, the cross-border assistance was fast, effective and very professional. By 9 am on the next day the Country Fire Authority had an advance incident management team working with our control team in Curtin, and by 3.30 pm that day, Boxing Day, some 56 volunteers with 10 large tankers were deployed to the Stromlo fire.

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