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Impact of the bushfires
on the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan and the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan
Due to the extreme fire conditions, access to the Garden is restricted to the central area. Vehicle access is via Mount Annan Drive. The mountain bike track is closed. A total fire ban is in effect.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
All access roads to the Garden are either closed or affected by fire. Staff and the public have been advised that the Garden is closed until further notice. The Garden’s Critical Incident Plan for bushfires has been activated. At the request of the RFS, the Garden remains open as a refuge centre for locals and as a last point of safety for the RFS.
On Wednesday 16 October a bushfire - the State Mine Fire - was reported at the army range at Marrangaroo west of Lithgow. By midday on Thursday 17 October the fire had spread east and the Rural Fire Service (RFS) closed sections of the Bells Line of Road. A fire which started at Mount Victoria on the same day forced closure of the Darling Causeway, one of two access roads between the north and south sides of the Grose Valley. Garden staff living in the Katoomba/Blackheath areas left the site to avoid being cut off. Staff living in the Mount Tomah/Bilpin/Kurrajong areas remained on site and closed the Garden to visitors.
By the morning of Friday 18 October the fire had burned through vast areas of the Bells Line of Road. Based on RFS forecasts of the seriousness of the fire and road closures, it was decided to close the Garden to visitors until further notice. The Trust's website and Facebook pages have been updated to advise visitors that the Garden is closed. The fire at Winmalee has also affected Hawkesbury Road, one of the two roads connecting the Bells Line of Road and the Great Western Highway.
The Mount Victoria fire has a ‘watch and act’ status. The RFS has joined this fire and the State Mine fire and back-burned through the Grose Valley and around Mount Victoria and Blackheath to try to contain the fire. Residents in the area west of Bilpin have been advised to evacuate. Residents across the entire Blue Mountains region have been advised to leave if they can with the forecast for today, Wednesday 23 October, bringing extreme risk.
All access roads to the Garden are either closed or affected by fire. Staff and the public have been advised that the Garden is closed until further notice with the exception of five staff who live within the road closure area. Garden staff are being updated by email and text message. As A/Curator Manager, Greg Bourke (one of the five staff) is also protecting his residential property from the threat of a nearby bushfire. A/Senior Ranger Warren Parsonson is currently the senior on-site officer.
The Garden’s Critical Incident Plan for bushfires has been activated. At the request of the RFS, the Garden remains open as a refuge centre for locals and as a last point of safety for the RFS. The A/Curator Manager is liaising with the RFS which has requested that the remaining staff patrol the grounds for spot fires. The Garden’s dam is a slightly below half-full and the water tanks are full, but the dam may be used for water bombing in which case it would be drained very quickly. The next 24 hours will be crucial as winds change throughout the day. We will keep you updated.
It is anticipated that the Garden will remain closed until the Bells Line of Road and Darling Causeway reopens and the RFS have advised that residents can return to their homes and the danger is downgraded.
I know you will join me in wishing all staff still based at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah, the very best in their efforts. If their lives are endangered, we will of course be evacuating them from the area.
We will keep you advised of any further developments regarding the impacts of the bushfires on your Botanic Gardens.