'Instagram Is Not Worth Your Life': Warning Against 'Disaster Tourism' In Bushfire Crisis
Emergency services have slammed people flocking to bushfire zones to take photos for social media, saying it slows down firefighters and puts more people in danger.
Large fires are burning in the Australian Capital Territory, on the outskirts of Canberra. The ACT faces another day of dangerous bushfire conditions on Wednesday, with the blaze south of the city expected to cloak the capital in choking smoke.
Firefighters were on Tuesday night bracing to defend properties as embers from the 8000-hectare Orroral Valley fire started spotting near Tharwa village, 30 kilometres south of Canberra. Authorities said the blaze was the most serious Canberra has faced since the deadly 2003 fires.
ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) commissioner Georgeina Whelan said on Wednesday that the fire was out of control, and could burn for "several weeks".
The ESA warned of "increasingly challenging fire weather" this weekend, with forecasts of extremely high temperatures and low humidity. Temperatures could hit the high 30s on Wednesday, and there are fears the fire could get closer homes.
The Orroral Valley fire is currently at 'watch and act' level, and Whelan said a large emergency response would continue over coming days, including waterbombing aircraft. Terrifying photos of the blaze have gone viral on social media, with plumes of thick black smoke and huge fires on mountaintops visible from Canberra.
But Whelan had stern words for anyone planning to use the fires for their own slice of social media fame, flatly warning people to stay away from the area and to not engage in what she called "disaster tourism".
"Taking a great photo for Instagram is not worth your life. It's not worth slowing down the response of my staff and volunteers who are working tirelessly to keep Canberra safe," she said.
"Please don't get on the roof of somebody else's home to get that great shot. It's not worth it. Please work with me to help keep Canberra safe."
Whelan said people in Canberra's southern suburbs, close to the bushfire zone, had reported a "significant amount of traffic" entering their area on Tuesday, as the fire swelled and night fell.
She called the warning "a difficult topic" but said it was important to call it out.
"It would appear that we have a number of people coming into the suburbs to check out the fire, to take photographs, to undertake what I'm calling 'disaster tourism'," Whelan said.
"Please refrain from doing this."
Canberra has had a horror summer season, with bizarre weather patterns and fires delivering a mix of extreme heat, choking smoke, and giant hail within a matter of days.
The ESA said heavy smoke caused by the fire would likely linger in Canberra until midday on Wednesday.
Temperatures are forecast to rise as high as 36C on Wednesday, with the ACT's fire danger rating remaining at "very high".
Authorities predicted the fire could come within one kilometre of the suburb of Banks on Canberra's southern outskirts.
However, on Tuesday night they said the fire posed "no immediate threat to properties in Canberra suburbs".
The warning level remained at 'watch and act' level early on Wednesday morning due to moderate overnight conditions.
Community members of Tharwa, Boboyan Road, Apollo Road, and Top Naas Road were told to remain vigilant while residents of Banks, Gordon, Condor, Calwell and Theodore should continue to monitor conditions.
Operation Bushfire Relief's Lieutenant General Greg Bilton told reporters on Tuesday evening a defence reconnaissance helicopter was believed to have started the fire.
Feature Image: Twitter (Anthony R @aroseworn)