The NSW Government has taken a critical step to protect the residents of the State from bushfires by declaring a State of Emergency ahead of catastrophic conditions predicted for this week.
Last night, the Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons wrote to Premier Gladys Berejiklian requesting she declare a State of Emergency under Section 33 of the State of Emergency and Rescue Management Act.
Together with the advice of the Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott, and other frontline agencies across the State, the declaration was made, granting emergency powers to the RFS Commissioner.
“Our State has already been hit by some of the most devastating bushfires we have ever seen, with three lives lost and more than 150 structures destroyed,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“With catastrophic weather conditions predicted for this week, particularly Tuesday with hot weather and strong winds, I have decided to take the Commissioner’s advice and make this declaration.
“It will ensure our State is best placed to respond to the predicted fire conditions.”
Worsening bushfire conditions are expected over the coming week, including anticipated catastrophic conditions in the Greater Sydney and Greater Hunter areas, and the potential for significant existing bushfire activity to be exacerbated in Northern NSW, and the North and Mid North Coast.
This is the first time since new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009 that catastrophic fire danger has been forecast for Sydney.
The State of Emergency declaration, the first since October 2013, allows powers to be transferred from the NSW Government to the RFS Commissioner. These powers include the ability to:
· Direct any government agency to conduct or refrain from conducting its functions;
· Control and coordinate the allocation of government resources;
· Evacuate people from property within the declared area;
· Close roads and thoroughfares to traffic;
· Pull down or shore up infrastructure at risk of collapse;
· Order the shutdown of essential utilities in the declared area including electricity, gas, oil and water; and
· Enter or take possession of property in the course of the emergency response.
Mr Elliott said this was an appropriate decision and sends a strong message that the directions of the RFS to the public during this period should be swiftly followed.
“Today’s announcement shows the NSW Government will always put the safety of the people in this State ahead of anything else. Our bush firefighters will be empowered during this period to ensure their directions are followed and community safety can be enhanced.”
The declaration is valid for a period of seven days from today.