City News

Bushfires approaching Big Smoke

Balmoral Beach in Sydney Harbour is covered with ash washed inshore from the bushfires. Photo: Alec Smart

By VERONICA ANASSIS

Fears about Sydney’s air quality are escalating as NSW’s unprecedented fire emergency continues. Fires are still surrounding the city from northern and southern regions, ravaging wildlife and blazing a black veil of ash that smothers Sydney’s skyline.
In the south-west, Lake Burragorang fires have now hit Oakdale, half an hour away from Campbelltown, where 112,000 hectares burn out of control.
From the north, Lithgow fires rage as far as Kurrajong, just 30 minutes from Sydney’s Hills district. Wollemi National Park and surrounding area fires circle Sydney over a staggering 345,000 hectares. They are now at wait and act level due to ‘increased fire activity’ according to the Rural Fire Service (RFS).

RFS spokesperson James Morris warned: “Fires continue to increase in remote and rugged terrain relatively close to smaller Sydney suburbs,” adding “2.2 million hectares of land in more than 7,000 fires.”
Morris told City Hub that changing wind conditions may turn things around. “We are expecting a southerly change to come through – passing through Sydney with cooler temperatures and much higher humidity, so hopefully we won’t see erratic fire conditions,” he said.

In the CBD, inner-city buildings are completely cloaked in smog and views of the sun have been eclipsed by grey smoke in Bondi Junction. At Malabar Beach and Balmoral, ghastly chunks of black ash have mounted-up on the shore, washed in from remnant-ridden waters. According to the New Daily, the air quality index has hit ‘hazardous’ degrees, four times over the ‘safe’ level limit in Sydney’s CBD.

Homes left in rubble
The RFS reports that now 692 homes in NSW have now been destroyed. The Government are not providing restoration support for many homes incinerated in the disaster. Regions such as Nambucca and Byron are eligible for up to $15,000 grants, while others have been left in the cold.

Billy Morris, whose family lost their mountain top home in Colo Heights, revealed to City Hub they will not receive any aid to remove debris materials to begin to rebuild.
“We can’t get government funding to get rid of the material,” he said. “The main thing for me is that Government declare it a natural disaster zone,” for restoration funding.
The family house, one in five homes that were damaged in the Colo Heights area, was ravaged three weeks after they lost their mother to cancer. 20 years have passed since the forest adjacent to their home was last back-burned, but the fire razed it just months before the next one was scheduled for 2020.
“All our fencing has been lost as well,” his sister Georgia told City Hub. “We’ve hardly got a boundary line anymore. The costs just keep adding up, it’s never ending.”

Although the Morris family are not eligible for emergency disaster relief, they are relying on donations. The influx of support from the community, however, has been ‘overwhelming’ according to Billy and Georgia, who together with their sister Matilda have raised $61,000 in funds so far.
“It’s made a world of difference,” she said, “It’s amazing how many people [have contributed]. It has just meant one less stress. You know, losing the house as it is, is bad enough. But they have been helping with even little things: the washing machine, dryer, absolutely everything. Lots of people have been offering trades… People have been so amazing.”
Donations towards the Morris family’s home rebuild can be made at an on-line GoFundMe appeal at: https://au.gofundme.com/f/rebuild-for-bill?fbclid=IwAR2ql3HFZvNb76tNV5KHgKf_BvWY-mwtZ7M7VphuxX74WP7nWpTTP8S8bGQ>.

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There are a number of funds which have been established to support those affected by the bush fires. The RFS recommend:
Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief
https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-bushfires
Salvation Army Disaster Appeal
https://www.salvationarmy.org.au/donate/make-a-donation/donate-online/?appeal=disasterappeal
St Vincent de Paul Society Bushfire Appeal (NSW)
https://donate.vinnies.org.au/appeals-nsw/vinnies-nsw-bushfire-appeal-nsw

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