Prime minister Scott Morrison announces that public servants taking leave to fight fires will have additional paid leave. This blog is now closed
- Australian bushfires: the story so far in each state
- Heartbreaking and heartwarming: animals rescued from Australia’s bushfires devastation
And with that, we will leave you for today. Our thoughts are with everyone who is being affected by this unfolding tragedy.
Thank you for following along today, we hope it was useful and informative. Wishing you all a happy and safe Christmas.
Let’s go over what happened today.
Scott Morrison has certainly been out and about since he arrived back from his much-maligned holiday in Hawaii. He has since apologised for the trip and, as promised, hit the ground running.
A count of the media alerts blasted out from the PM’s office suggests he’s done at least 13 official visits – across NSW and SA – since his first at 8am on Sunday to the NSW RFS headquarters.
Exhausted firefighters have accused @ScottMorrisonMP of a publicity stunt as he toured one of NSW’s worst firefields yesterday. “We need some action” – Karl Weatherley – Ilford @NSWRFS volunteer. https://t.co/h0h9VhJYAI @MyleeHogan #auspol #NSWFires #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/0XAjsTzXj9
Let’s take a look at the top temperatures from each state and territory today.
I’ve taken these figures from the Bureau of Meteorology. Remember that WA is three hours behind the east coast.
The scale of the destruction left by the Cudlee Creek fires in the Adelaide Hills has come into greater focus as the tally for the number of livestock killed in the blaze was released this afternoon.
The Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA (Pirsa) is currently taking stock of the damage in the wake of the fire, which consumed 25,000ha in a rich agricultural region that contains a third of the region’s wine industry.
This season’s devastating bushfires have not stopped volunteer firefighters in Avoca Beach continuing their Christmas Eve tradition of bringing Santa to the streets of the suburb on the NSW central coast, throwing lollies to kids as they go.
The crews have just returned from fighting the fire in Mount Victoria, in the Blue Mountains, and before that the Three Mile blaze, which became part of the megafire north of Sydney. They have also been collecting donations for the families of the two firefighters – Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer – who died in Buxton last week.
In between fighting huge fires in the Blue Mountains, Avoca’s fireys find time – and energy – to spread a little cheer pic.twitter.com/kOLUlGfg4j
The fire danger ratings for tomorrow, Christmas Day, will see widespread areas of low-moderate and high fire danger. North Western will be very high. Firefighters will continue working to strengthen containment lines ahead of heat building again from this weekend. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/yYsBDUbr5E
The Bom says there will be extreme heatwave conditions for much of the country, starting from Saturday.
Severe to Extreme #heatwave conditions are set to develop over a large part of #NSW from the weekend into early next week. Plan ahead now – monitor the weather forecast: https://t.co/UdBoGyM9Kc and know how to look after yourself and others in the heat: https://t.co/oHq1GI87zW pic.twitter.com/YrRbv6m5gK
This is a touching piece by Jessica Friedmann about how Braidwood, a town along the Kings Highway, has been impacted by the fires. Once nicknamed “Deadwood”, the town has been rejuvenated in recent years. Now, the closure of the highway has starved businesses of the passing trade they rely on.
Anthony Albanese has issued this statement in response to the government’s announcement that volunteer firefighters who work in the public service will get paid leave.
Labor welcomes Scott Morrison’s decision to provide additional support for volunteer firefighters on the frontline – something he has repeatedly claimed is unnecessary.
It’s good that federal public servants will receive the same conditions currently enjoyed by army reservists, but many volunteer firefighters will not be assisted by this decision.
Let’s hope this continues and extends out to where it’s most needed, although authorities have said they aren’t expecting the level of rainfall needed.
Rain is falling in Sydney. A Christmas miracle
Here’s an interesting story from Yahoo Finance, which reports a surge in interest from Australians wanting to become volunteer firefighters.
A NSW RFS spokesperson told Yahoo Finance: “We have seen a significant increase in the number of people enquiring about how to join the NSW RFS on our website.
Hi everyone, this is Luke Henriques-Gomes, taking over from Helen Davidson. Thanks for all your work, Helen. I’ll be with you through to the evening. If you want to bring anything to my attention, you can email me at email@example.com or contact me on Twitter (@lukehgomes).
As Australia’s bushfire crisis continues, millions of hectares have been lost, with a tragic impact on wildlife and flora.
Among the destruction, the efforts of volunteer firefighters, residents and animal rescuers have stood out, with small acts of heroism that have saved many animal lives. A few have become emblematic images of this year’s terrible fire season.
A dire water situation compounded by bushfires and drought has prompted Auckland-based NRL team the Warriors to help rebuild the northern NSW town of Tenterfield.
Warriors chief executive Cameron George, who grew up around two hours from the town, says he is heartbroken to hear stories from friends needing to boil water three times before they can drink it.
He now suggests that concerns over longer fire seasons, fatigued fire fighters, and calls for systemic change, are coming from Twitter and that government policy will not be set by social media.
“There are always lots of experts when any of these things happen, but I can tell you as the prime minister and as the premier was telling you, the experts are the ones who have command responsibilities,” Morrison says.
Morrison is asked about volunteer firefighters who have taken out loans to stay financially afloat.
He says it’s a matter for the state governments, that he doesn’t want to do kneejerk responses, and it hasn’t been raised with him.
He’s asked about reports of looting and scammers: “I think they’re scum. It makes me sick,” says Morrison.
“And you know, in these fires, we have seen the best of Australia. The overwhelming story of these fires is the best of Australians in their response. But in some cases, we’ve seen some ugly stuff, and they should be ashamed of themselves.”
Morrison says the cost of the public service leave will be absorbed by the agencies, and there will be no additional net cost.
Morrison: “The other thing which we’ve done in the last 24 hours after consulting commissioners and state premiers, where I’ve had that direct interaction, is to ensure that our ADF is taking a more forward-leaning and proactive approach with response centres like we have here, like in Mount Barker and anywhere else in the country.”
“They have been there already, from up in Caloundra where I was, all the way through since September.
Scott Morrison has announced that public servants taking leave to fight fires will have additional paid leave. He is setting a “minimum standard of four weeks”, beginning from today.
He says he’s directed all commonwealth public service leaders to permanently offer at least 20 working days of paid leave, with more as needed, for people volunteering to fight fires.
Morrison is giving thanks to the 1,500 South Australian firefighters who have come to NSW to help with the bushfire crisis there.
“Particularly even now, when you’re facing your own challenges here.”
South Australian premier, Steve Marshall, and Morrison are holding a press conference now.
Marshall says there has been “overwhelming generosity” from the community to the Cudlee Creek bushfire appeal.
Disappointing news from the ABC, which reports there are some alleged instances of scammers and looters taking advantage of the bushfire crisis.
According to South Australia Police, fire victims have reported receiving phone calls claiming to be from banks looking to pass on disaster relief funds.
The fraudulent callers have asked for the victims’ bank details, and have also targeted members of the public outside the bushfire regions.
It’s going to be a long conversation once the fire season is over, but there is already a lot of talk about resourcing. For what it’s worth, in reporting from different firegrounds, I’ve found opinions differ from place to place, and brigade to brigade. But there’s no question that donations and fundraising form a large part of the supply.
The RFS supplies the necessary equipment. But this social media post from a Northern Beaches brigade sent to Bilpin on Saturday, shows what crews can do with the extra – in this case an iPad and topographical maps funded through donations.
“Video is from last night after the southerly change impacted the Bilpin area, navigating into an isolated property off Bells Line of Road which was under threat with persons in place. The use of the iPad and Topo maps proving very helpful in locating isolated properties (purchased via brigade fundraising).”
The Law Society and the Legal Services Commission of South Australia is reminding people in the state that there is free legal advice available for those affected by the bushfire disaster.
The Law Society maintains a register of lawyers who have volunteered to be on hand to provide free legal assistance to victims of disasters. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morrison appeared on South Australia’s 5AA radio this morning where he was asked by host Tony Pilkington about firefighting resources and compensation.
The short version is Morrison was asked whether the government should be funding the stuff that people are telling them needs to be funded, and the answer was that if people tell the government something needs to be funded, they will look at funding it.
Pilkington: Prime minister, I’m not going to bore you to death and our listening audience with questions that you’ve been asked a million times since you’ve got back. A question I wanted to put to you: would you consider, would the government consider the purchase of some more of these Canadian heavy water-bombing planes?
I’m imagining if we could get, I don’t know, three or four, I know they’re expensive, and put them in a place like Edinburgh. They could service us and NSW and Victoria. Is that sort of something you would consider?
What will the weather bring you #ChristmasDay and #BoxingDay ? Here’s a national summary of the maximum forecast temperatures. For the latest weather forecasts and warnings, keep connected here: https://t.co/k4ywoEmBrF.
Have a safe festive season Australia! pic.twitter.com/JMK3iYgdcx
Western Australia has offered a slight revision to the total number of hectares burned in WA since the start of November.
Yesterday the rough figure, not including all fires managed by the local government bush fire brigades, was 374,000ha.
The Kerry Ridge fire, on the north-west edge of the Mount Gospers and joined to the Oaky Creek and Paddock Run fires, has been upgraded to watch and act with activity increasing in Nullo Mountain.
“The fire continues to burn on multiple fronts in the Wollemi national park, Putty state forest, Coricudgy state forest and Nullo Mountain state forest,” says the RFS.
Watch & Act – Kerry Ridge (Muswellbrook, Singleton & Mid-Western LGA)
Fire activity increasing in Nullo Mountain. If you are in areas west of the fire including Nullo Mountain, Olinda & Bogee, monitor changing conditions. Be ready to act if situation changes. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/MM87cUIv8s
There is “overwhelming support” from the community, says Balmoral RFS volunteer Andrew Johnston, in this emotional interview with Nine News.
“We just tried so hard to save people’s homes. You can see in the shed we’ve got everything in the shed for everyone … for people who lost their homes. It’s just awesome, the community spirit, the Aussie spirit all around.”
This interview brought many of us in the 9 Newsroom to tears. It’s one firefighter’s response to the thousands of gifts being donated to his community. The gifts will go to families who have lost everything, and to RFS volunteers. @NSWRFS #NSWRFS #9News #Bushfires pic.twitter.com/j3520y2vUI
Hello, this is Helen Davidson taking over the blog from Calla Wahlquist.
Prime minister Scott Morrison will be addressing media from South Australia soon.
Emergency Victoria has issued an updated watch-and-act alert for the Marthavale-Barmouth Spur fire at Tambo Crossing.
The Great Alpine Road – the only way in and out without going around the mountain – remains closed between Ensay and Bruthen and there is heavy smoke throughout Tambo Valley. The fire is being monitored through aerial patrols and ground crews are in the area, though as reported earlier they are not attacking the fire directly because it is too dangerous to send crews into that terrain.
This WATCH & ACT for BUSHFIRE is issued for Tambo Crossing.
** UPDATE – This is an updated Watch and Act that replaces the warning issued at 7:20 am **
Please remain vigilant as conditions can change quickly.
While we wait for Scott Morrison to address the media in South Australia, where he is visiting properties including a winery impacted by the Cudlee Creek fire, and a church that is holding a donation drive for affected families, here is an aerial view of the damage.
Apocalyptic scenes from Lobethal to Woodside. Astonishing how close #bushfire got to towns. Miracle not more were destroyed by #Adelaidefires. Thanks @CFSAlerts for hard work #Adelaide #safires @NJellicoe pic.twitter.com/gF7DKQHbXC
DISPATCH: Full scale of #Adelaidefires laid bare amid a sea of black, scorched earth. My @theTiser aerial report from #SAFires ground zero. Utter carnage https://t.co/MXsn0cAHNE #Adelaide @NJellicoe #CuddleCreek pic.twitter.com/InwlKbvgyW
And it does seem that Jacqui was simply correcting Scott Morrison as to her citizenship.
If you’re going camping between Christmas and New Year, Forest Fire Management Victoria, which handles all bushfires on public land, has provided a guide to safe camp fire management.
Remember: if there is a total fire ban you cannot light a campfire.
Going camping this summer? Don’t let your campfire become a bushfire Escaped campfires cause over 12% of bushfires every year, so know what you can and can’t do: https://t.co/ZJY3Mtfeoy #CampfireSafety #vicfires pic.twitter.com/NGqGQn2CUP
Dr Geoff Goldrick, a scientist, educator and volunteer firefighter, has written a critique of Scott Morrison’s “marketing strategy of a boldfaced lie” on Australia’s emissions reduction efforts.
We know that Morrison’s patronising response to this catastrophe only confirms that he doesn’t understand the question Australia is asking.
Australians aren’t asking for miracles – we’re begging for leadership.
Building Impact Assessment Teams continue working assess damage to properties. So far this season 873 homes destroyed, over 15,400 buildings saved. Approx 100 homes are believed lost since last Thu. These are still being assessed due to limited access. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/Yi8ppJ9Ly8
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor will attend the reopening of the Tahmoor coalmine with Sanjeev Gupta today, the Illawara Mercury reports.
Simec Coal Tahmoor, bought by Gupta’s GFC Alliance in 2018, was evacuated on Thursday as the Green Wattle Creek fire approached Bargo. Like much of the area affected by the Green Wattle Creek fire, it’s in Taylor’s electorate of Hume.
It is deeply ironic that while renewable energy is the only part of the economy delivering sustained emissions reductions, the minister for emissions reduction has chosen to double down on coal, the primary driver of emissions increases. At a time when homes and lives have been lost to the devastating climate-fuelled bushfires in his own backyard, this stunt comes across as some kind of sick joke.
The Morrison government’s misreading of the mood remains astonishing. We are living through national trauma – and their response was first a jaunt to Hawaii, and now the weird sight of Angus Taylor reopening a coalmine in the literal midst of this climate emergency.
Good firefighting and luck ensured that the community dodged a bullet with Tahmoor – if it had burned, the Picton and Campbelltown areas may have been polluted with the toxic pollution for weeks from burning coal, including carbon monoxide, toxic fine particles and mercury.
I hope Dean and his small furry friend are doing well.
My cousin Dean has been a firefighter for over 17 years. Over the weekend he was out on a run in Balmoral and found this ringtail possum in the middle of the road. As he got closer the little guy ran up his leg seeking shelter from the smoke and flames pic.twitter.com/cYeJZlLW4A
The top five Australian Twitter trends are critical of Scott Morrison.
What was that tweet about not wanting to be the main character on twitter? Bad day for Scott Morrison pic.twitter.com/oUaZxxGTZj
SHOTS FIRED pic.twitter.com/XmnsIbYvvJ
Scott Morrison has responded to Jacqui, the woman from the RFS operations centre in Mudgee yesterday, who responded to being introduced to the PM yesterday by saying, “He’s not my prime minister.”
Indeed, as Jacqui joked with me yesterday, I’m not her PM, because she’s British, Boris Johnson is. But with local MP Andrew Gee, we made a decent pitch for her to become an Aussie yesterday. She & the other RFS volunteers have been doing an incredible job battling these blazes. pic.twitter.com/28z3c4bTMG
Our photo editor Jessica Hromas was near Bilpin in areas affected by the Gospers Mountain megafire on Saturday.
We have updated our map showing the scale of the bushfire crisis in NSW and Queensland. The total area burned in the two states is now 3.65m hectares.
Anthony Albanese is speaking to reporters in the Blue Mountains now. He says compensating volunteer firefighters is a “commonsense” issue.
I’ve spoken to the volunteer firefighters and there is not one of them that I have spoken to who hasn’t said that some form of compensation is required. Not one.
If someone has not had an income for a period of months because they have been fighting fires – and we met someone in Bilpin who had been fighting fires since September, every day – people who don’t have an income for a period of three months, it is unsustainable. Common sense tells you that.
The people I’ve spoken to who have decades of experience are saying that they’ve never seen anything like this. There are record numbers of homes have been lost. There have been lives that have been lost. This is a crisis. It requires an appropriate response.
While Scott Morrison is in South Australia today, Anthony Albanese is still in the Blue Mountains. He is expected to talk to media shortly.
At 8.45am this morning there are 92 fires burning across New South Wales with more than 40 still to be contained.
The minister in charge of the bushfire crisis in NSW, the emergency services minister, David Elliot, has reportedly told the Australian that a proposal by Labor that volunteer firefighters should be paid for their time would undermine volunteer ethos and potentially undermine firefighting efforts — because the Rural Fire Service could never afford to pay all of its 70,000 volunteer members.
Anyone who is arguing we have to pay them doesn’t understand the ethos of the volunteer in this country.
If we pay one volunteer emergency services organisation we are going to have to pay them all. That would be a very difficult thing to do.
Scott Morrison is in South Australia today and will be visiting communities affected by the catastrophic bushfires there, which burned through 47,000 hectares and destroyed 87 houses.
Our photographer-at-large Mike Bowers was in Balmoral yesterday and captured some of the devastation in the town that was among the worst hit by the Green Wattle Creek fire in the southern highlands.
Reporters Michael McGowan and Helen Davidson have been in Balmoral over the past few days. They spoke to survivors including Steve Harrison, a 67-year-old potter who described climbing into a “coffin-sized” makeshift kiln when the fire approached.
It was eerie. The light was this metallic, luminous glow. Burning leaves were falling around me. The smoke was so thick I could hardly breathe. I just watched it as it came over me. I was shit scared. I thought, ‘This is how I die.’
I spoke too soon. The CFS has just issued a watch and act alert for the Cudlee Creek fire in South Australia.
#Bushfire Watch and Act for #HOLLANDS_CREEK_ROAD,_CUDLEE_CREEK #fire. Take action now as this bushfire may threaten your safety. If you are not prepared, leave now and if the path is clear, go to a safer place. #WAM ID=0003903 #SAFires https://t.co/YLs2SJUOAo pic.twitter.com/BEb2I3rJI7
There is only one fire at watch and act level in south-eastern Australia this morning.
Fuels are incredibly dry. The spread of some of these fires over the past couple of days with really light winds and winds from the south is creating a challenge for us. It’s just really unusual that the fuels are that dry that the normal behaviour that we would expect to see in terms of the spread of these fires is not happening.
More than 4 million hectares of Australia has burned since the start of spring, according to figures collated by Guardian Australia.
That figure is likely to increase — not just because we have three months to go in the southern fire season, but because the split between state-run and local government-run firefighting forces in WA means the figure from that state is incomplete.
Debate about whether volunteer firefighters should be compensated, and what form any compensation should take, is continuing today. Labor is pushing the debate and it has the support of the volunteer firefighters’ association, but Scott Morrison yesterday ruled out making a “knee-jerk” response. Some employees, like public servants, get paid leave for their volunteer bushfire duties but not everyone is in that position.
They are out there chewing smoke. It’s all very well for the prime minister to say they have got what they need — I am sure the air was pretty good in Hawaii.