Illawarra councils unite as bushfires come within kilometres of the region

Albion Park Showground has acted as an evacuation centre for large animals during the bushfires. Picture: Anna Warr
Albion Park Showground has acted as an evacuation centre for large animals during the bushfires. Picture: Anna Warr

The Illawarra's three councils are well aware of their good fortune compared to their neighbours during this unprecedented bushfire crisis.

Working as part of a central emergency operations centre at Albion Park, Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama councils have offered services, infrastructure and staff to affected areas in recent weeks.

Together councils have sent generators, earthmoving equipment and garbage trucks to assist areas including Shoalhaven, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly and the far south coast.

Fire tore through Jacks Corner Road at Kangaroo Valley recently. Picture: Adam McLean

Fire tore through Jacks Corner Road at Kangaroo Valley recently. Picture: Adam McLean

They have also been repair and maintenance hubs for Rural Fires Service vehicles, and offered help with recovery efforts.

In Shellharbour, Albion Park Showground was an evacuating centre for large animals over the weekend, while in Kiama, the leagues club was opened to help people evacuating from the Currowan fire.

Alongside the help, there has also been preparation - just in case the fires do start to cross into the Illawarra's borders.

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he was well aware of how vulnerable the Illawarra was being surrounded by the escarpment.

"I have been very conscious of the fact that one of our most important assets - our water catchment area - needs to be protected," he said.

Edging closer: Relatively unscathed in the bushfire crisis, the Illawarra's three councils have been assisting their neighbours and firming up emergency plans in case a fire ignites.

Edging closer: Relatively unscathed in the bushfire crisis, the Illawarra's three councils have been assisting their neighbours and firming up emergency plans in case a fire ignites.

"Thank goodness for the efforts on the western side of the Illawarra, near the Hume Highway where the [Green Wattle Creek] fire hasn't come across.

"The challenge for us now will be that which is comng up through the southern part of the region, the Morton fire and the area of Kangaroo Valley."

The Currowan fire, which ripped through the western part of Kangaroo Valley on Saturday night, is within about 15km of Kiama's boundary.

With more hot weather and little rain forecast, Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba said she was mindful of the high levels of anxiety throughout her community as they have watched the bushfire crisis getting closer.

"There are places that have had no power, no water, they've been covered in smoke that's harmful to their health and I have had people contact me directly to say they are really worried about it coming here," she said.

"What I would say to people is that we have an emergency operations centre that is working to ensure their safety, there are evacuation plans and people will be notified if something happens."

If a fire occurs, Cr Bradbery said it was vital people got up-to-date information.

Logs continued to smoulder on Monday after a fire tore through Kangaroo Valley over the weekend. Picture: Adam McLean

Logs continued to smoulder on Monday after a fire tore through Kangaroo Valley over the weekend. Picture: Adam McLean

"The RFS are the defining agency in this and people need to make sure they get their information from a reliable source," he said.

He noted ABC Illawarra radio was the official broadcaster for local RFS messages during emergencies.

He also advised residents to be on high alert for anyone lighting fires, throwing away cigarette butts or disregarding total fire bans.

"Anyone seeing anything like that should immediately report it to the police," he said.

Subscribe to our newsletters

This story Illawarra councils unite as bushfires come within kilometres of the region first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.