New South Wales (NSW) and Australian Capital Territory (ACT) experienced a heatwave over the last few days of October 2018 that continued into early November. During the early evening of Thursday 1 November, a burnt-out car sparked a fire at Pierces Creek a few kilometres to the west of Canberra’s urban fringe. A total fire ban was declared for the following day.
ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) personnel from ACT RFS, ACT State Emergency Service (SES), and ACT Fire and Rescue (F&R), including ACT F&R community fire unit members, door-knocked 1,440 homes in suburbs from Kambah to Gordon. ESA personnel also set up information booths at a major shopping centre nearby and provided members of the public with advice on current fire conditions and how to prepare.
A thunderstorm that afternoon dropped light rain over the fire ground, causing the humidity to rise and the temperature to fall. These milder conditions enabled firefighters to slow the fire’s spread and strengthen containment lines. However, the thunderstorm caused significant damage elsewhere, with 150 calls for assistance to the SES, mainly to deal with fallen trees in the ACT’s Tuggeranong area.
The fire remained at ‘advice’ level on 4 November, burning in country largely sheltered from the wind and not experiencing the same hot and windy conditions as nearby Canberra. Several roads remained closed on Monday.
For many Canberra residents, the fire triggered memories of the 2003 ACT bushfires that killed four people and destroyed nearly 500 homes.