Sydney chokes on smoke from bushfire backburning

Sydney chokes on smoke from bushfire backburning

11 May 2010

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Australia — Sydney residents have been urged to stay indoors as thick smoke sweeps across the city from backburning in the Blue Mountains.

The NSW Ambulance Service said people should stay in air-conditioned premises if possible, avoid rigorous exercise and cover their nose and mouth with a mask designed to filter fine particles.

The Rural Fire Service (RFS) said it was assisting the National Parks and Wildlife Service with burn-offs in the lower Blue Mountains between Glenbrook and Warragamba.

It says everything is under control, but the controlled burn is producing large volumes of smoke.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the controlled burn is important work which can help protect life and property from bush fires.

“The strong westerly winds being experienced this afternoon are sending significant amounts of smoke across the greater Sydney area,” he said. “People should take precautions if driving through smokey conditions, such as slowing down and turning on headlights.”

Mr Fitzsimmons added that people with breathing difficulties should also take precautions “such as staying indoors”.

The RFS said there was no need for residents to call triple-zero.

Motorists are being warned they might experience smoke haze on some traffic routes around the city and are urged to exercise caution while driving.

The bulk of the smoke is expected to dissipate overnight as the wind swings around to the south, but there will still be some residual smoke across Sydney, the RFS says.

Further burn offs will continue throughout the week and over the weekend, the RFS says.

The NSW Ambulance Service said the elderly, the very young and those with respiratory conditions such as asthma should take extra care when smoke is in the air.

It said fine smoke particles can affect the respiratory system and cause a variety of health problems, such as throat irritation, shortness of breath and coughing.

The smoke particles can also aggravate existing lung conditions, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.

Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke inhalation, so people with existing conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs, it said.

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