Smoke from nearby wildfires in New South Wales (NSW) state has caused air quality ratings in Sydney to reach “hazardous” levels on Tuesday, November 19. Strong winds brought heavy smoke from the fire at Gospers Mountain (northwest of Sydney) on Tuesday morning (local time), resulting in extremely low visibility. In central Sydney, air quality levels are at poor while in the northwest, levels reached hazardous in Rouse Hill and Prospect. Health officials are warning people with asthma or other breathing issues to stay indoors and avoid outdoor exercise as a precaution. The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) warned that smoke is expected to remain around the city over the coming days. Smoke advisories are in effect areas in the northeast of NSW including Taree, Port Macquarie, Kempsey, and Sydney.
Containment efforts are ongoing in NSW as wildfires continue to spread throughout the state. Over 1400 firefighters have been deployed to combat the blazes and officials have warned that weather conditions in the coming days may hamper efforts. Strong winds with gusts up to 65 kph (40 mph) are forecast on Tuesday along with high temperatures. Severe fire danger warnings remain in effect for multiple regions in NSW as the dry conditions are expected to continue.
A heightened security presence, road closures, and power outages are to be expected in the vicinity of any wildfire. Officials may issue evacuation orders. Up-to-date information on the fires and warnings can be found on the NSW RFS website here.
Over 1 million hectares (2,471,053 acres) of land have been burned since the wildfires broke out in NSW on October 9. Authorities have indicated that the fires are due to high temperatures and drought. At least six people have died and 530 homes have been destroyed as a result of the bushfires.
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 New South Wales are advised to keep abreast of warnings and adhere to any instructions issued by local authorities, notably evacuation orders. As high temperatures are expected in the near-term, individuals are also advised to remain hydrated and minimize outdoor activities. Furthermore, individuals should limit outdoor activities until the situation normalizes and those with chronic respiratory illnesses should exercise increased caution; seek medical attention if experiencing breathing difficulties or other health concerns.
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