Orroral Valley fire one year commemoration

One year on from the Orroral Valley fire, we thank all of those involved in the significant response and recovery efforts.

The 2019-20 bushfire and storm season produced some of the most devastating natural disasters in Australia’s history. Today marks 12 months since the Orroral Valley fire began amid an incredibly difficult bushfire season for the ACT.

Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the response to the fire was an extraordinary effort by ACT Emergency Services Agency staff and volunteers, as well as ACT Parks and Conservation Service, ACT Policing, NSW Rural Fire Service, QLD Fire Service, Defence and other ACT Government agencies.

“Unfavourable hot and dry temperatures combined with gusty winds led the Orroral Valley fire to quickly spread and it was classified ‘out of control’ until 8 February 2020. By the time it was extinguished on 27 February 2020, one month after ignition, the fire had burned over 86,000 hectares of land,” Minister Gentleman said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the level of resilience, determination and teamwork that the community, volunteers and emergency services personnel demonstrated to help keep people’s lives, property and the environment safe.

“Despite the challenges posed by dangerously unpredictable weather conditions, smoke haze, hailstorms and heatwaves, the Canberra community remained united and went to extraordinary lengths to support their neighbours, friends, family and colleagues.”

ACT Emergency Services Agency Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said last bushfire season the ACT suffered the driest conditions on record.

“After an already intense fire season that saw the ACT deploy more than 2,100 personnel to support our interstate colleagues, the ACT was faced with our own emergency response to both fire and hailstorm,” Commissioner Whelan said.

“All services involved should be incredibly proud of their efforts. Your commitment and resilience to keeping the community safe has not gone unnoticed.

“One year on, the ACTESA has embraced the lessons learned from the previous season by focusing on enhancing its capability, collective training, preparedness, personnel, planning and incident management strategies.

“We have taken proactive steps to make improvements such as the recruitment of specialist roles including Fire Behaviour Analysts, Air Operations, Strategic Planners and Fire Tower Operators, all of which will help fatigue management and boost the existing specialist skills within the Agency.

“We have invested in further training to our volunteer members and provided them with several new road assets to strengthen emergency planning, preparation and response during bushfires and floods.”

ACT Parks and Conservation Executive Branch Manager Daniel Iglesias acknowledged and thanked his team for their hard work on the ground while the fire was active, and their ongoing work to make the park safe for the public over the past year.

“Our approach to bushfire recovery is to help the natural regeneration of our landscape. Even after such a significant event like this, the vegetation in Namadgi is recovering well,” Mr Iglesias said.

“A lot of trees have survived and are resprouting, and we are actively monitoring the recovery of fish and other aquatic plants and animals.”

“Some parts of Namadgi are still closed due to the impact on infrastructure. Our priority is making these areas safe for staff, contractors and volunteers as well as the broader public.

“Our rangers are working hard to repair infrastructure like walking trails and recreation areas so they can re-open for everyone to enjoy.”

While the ACTESA is equipped and ready, bush and grass fires can strike at any time and it is vitally important for the ACT community to be prepared.

Update your Survival Plan and have the conversation with your family about what you will do during a fire – including how you will stay informed, when you will leave and what you will take.

To access and complete your survival plan, visit https://esa.act.gov.au/be-emergency-ready/resources-plans/survival-plan

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