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    Air Pollution Dog Blog

    Australian Firefighters Struggle to Contain Brushfire Blaze

    Australian Firefighters Struggle to Contain Brushfire Blaze

    High heat and catastrophic conditions in Western Australia and lightning strikes in Queensland could intensify fires over the weekend as Australia enters its second week of sustained bushfires.

    Australia’s bushfire are a common and deadly threat but the early outbreak this year in the southern spring has already claimed several lives and destroyed more than 300 homes over the past week.

    Severe fire danger conditions are expected to continue in NSW on Sunday where about 60 bush and grass fires are still burning, according to NSW Rural Fire Service.

    On Saturday, conditions in New South Wales had eased slightly but firefighters said the more than 100,000 hectare Gospers Mountain blaze in the Hawkesbury was unlikely to be contained before weather conditions worsen.

    Firefighters had backburned through Friday night to try and get a handle on the huge fire near Sydney’s northwestern outskirts.

    NSW Rural Fire Service inspector Ben Shepherd said the fire, which has been downgraded to a “watch and act” alert, “has now burnt out more than 100,000 hectares and it has destroyed six homes”.

    “We’ve had reports that one further home may have been lost yesterday.”

    The bushfire crisis is now set to intensify on both Australian coasts, with forecasters warning “there is not much end in sight” to a horrific fire season that has not even hit summer.

    Firefighters strengthened containment lines by back burning around the Gospers Mountain fire, which is blazing across more than 112,000 acres (175 square miles) near Sydney’s northwest outskirts, but the fire is yet to be contained. Back burns are fires deliberately lit to clear dry undergrowth.

    Australia Wildfires

    Catastrophic conditions are forecast on Sunday in four regions of WA: east Pilbara coast, west Pilbara coast, east Pilbara inland and Ashburton Inland.

    The catastrophic rating was introduced in 2009 and is the equivalent of the conditions for Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires. On Tuesday last week, Sydney experienced catastrophic conditions for the first time.

    In Queensland on Saturday, the Pechey/Ravensbourne fire in the Darling Downs region flared to an emergency level, driven by hot and dry wind gusts.

    The fast-moving fire reached Ravensbourne by 2.30pm AEST, and burned over a large area between Purtill Road and north of Mount Jockey Road.

    People were being told to immediately flee that blaze from Saturday morning onwards. Fire crews, assisted by heavy machinery, are also beefing up containment lines elsewhere in the state.

    People are being told to be prepared to leave from the paths of other major fires at Barney View and Palen Creek, where a bushfire with multiple fronts is burning in an inaccessible area of Mount Barney National Park near the Queensland and NSW border.

    Pets and Dogs Wildfire Smoke Pollution Mask

    An unpredictable fire is burning at Tarome, in the Scenic Rim region, moving from the Cunningham Highway towards Ryan Road, Hinrichsen Road, Simmonds Road and Tarome Road. That blaze is likely to impact Ryan Road, Hinrichsen Road and Simmonds Road, in the vicinity of the Bluff.

    Further north, fire crews will continue to work on containment lines at the Kinkuna Waters and Woodgate/Walkers Point Road fire south of Bundaberg, with the help of waterbombing aircraft and heavy machinery. People are being told to be ready to leave that area because the fire could get worse quickly.

    Conditions are expected to worsen on Sunday, when the Darling Downs and Granite Belt region will rise to an extreme fire danger.

    Severe isolated thunderstorms are expected to develop, which, instead of bringing respite, could create dry lightning strikes that start more fires.

    “With those winds, particularly as they increase on Sunday, we are likely to see an increase in the fire dangers,” said the Bureau of Meteorology’s Jess Gardner.

    Bushfires have destroyed 16 homes in Queensland over the past week.

    In WA, a cauldron of hot air developed on Saturday and is expected to sit over the state for days.

    On Saturday, Marble Bar was expected to reach 45C, Port Hedland 43C, Meekatharra 42C, Kalgoorlie 41C, Perth 38C and Broome 36C.

    On Sunday, conditions will worsen for many regions, with Kalgoorlie forecast to rise to 44C – which would break the city hottest temperature record, set in 1923.

    Marble Bar is forecast to rise to 46C, Port Hedland and Meekatharra steady at 43C and 42C, Broome will rise to 38C and Perth will drop to 29C.

    The hot air will then sweep through the rest of the country, worsening fire conditions in NSW and Queensland by mid-week.

    “Unfortunately, we are in for the long haul and there is not much end in sight,” Gardner told AAP.

    In WA, extreme fire danger was forecast on Saturday for the east Pilbara inland, Gascoyne inland and south interior.

    In Queensland, severe fire danger was forecast on Saturday for the Darling Downs and Granite Belt, rising to extreme on Sunday.

    And in NSW, Tuesday and Wednesday will be fire weather days, with “the weather conditions again deteriorating”, according to the bureau.

    Police alleged that “the man lit the fire as an attempt to back burn for the protection of a cannabis crop and perceived benefit from recovery work after the fire and made no attempt to control the blaze,” they said in a statement.A man suspected of starting a blaze which reached emergency level, at Guyra Road in Ebor, east of Armidale, was arrested on Friday.

    Affect of Tear Gas on Pets and Dogs

    Dog Exposure to Tear Gas Leads to Demand For Restraint

    Animal rights groups in Hong Kong have expressed concern over the use of tear gas by police at protests, warning that pets and stray animals are getting caught in the crossfire of escalating violence in the city. In one disturbing incident, a young cat was said to be in so much discomfort from the chemical irritant that it clawed at its own eyes.

    Calling for restraint from both sides, the Hong Kong Veterinary Association said in a statement that tear smoke could be a significant health hazard to the city’s animals, resulting in symptoms such as vomiting, coughing and eye problems.

    “We are concerned by recent reports of pets being affected by tear smoke,” the statement read. “We urge all sides to exercise restraint and minimize harm to innocent residents as well as animals.”

    Tear Gas Effects on Pets and Dogs

    Hong Kong has seen months of street protests and political unrest sparked by opposition to the now-shelved extradition bill, which would have allowed transfers of criminal suspects to mainland China for trial. On August 5, a veterinary clinic in Sham Shui Po was forced to evacuate its cats to an intensive care room after riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesters gathered in the area.

    With no advance notice, clinic staff had to rush to close all windows and used wet towels to plug the gaps between the windows and the wall to prevent any tear smoke getting in. In another case in Sheung Wan, an 18-month-old Sphynx cat suffered skin and eye problems after tear gas was fired in the neighborhood. Clearly in distress from the effects of the riot control agent, it scratched its eyes with its claws, breaking small blood vessels.

    The pet was taken to a vet and treated with steroids and eye wash, administered every two hours, to avoid any long-term health effects. Some 681,600 pets, not including fish, were kept in Hong Kong in 2017, according to a study by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong. Among those were more than half a million dogs and cats.

    Affect of tear gas in Hong Kong on dogs needing air pollution filter

    A group of veterinary nurses also issued a statement condemning police actions. “Police’s indiscriminate and reckless use of tear gas has not only harmed local residents, it has also affected animal hospitals near front lines [of protests],” the anonymous workers said. “This collective strongly condemns the police force’s deployment of police dogs while tear gas is being fired.”

    The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said pet owners should immediately close all windows and turn off fans in the event of tear smoke being released nearby. Affected animals should be washed with clean water or saline solution containing 0.9 per cent salt, while any clothing and leads must be wiped clean to avoid any contamination. If serious symptoms persist, they should be taken to a vet for a check-up as soon as possible.

    The veterinary association also warned against police dogs being used during clearance operations involving the firing of tear gas, adding they should be protected by goggles and gas masks when deployed on the streets. Another animal rights group, Animalsaver HK, was due to hold a rally on Saturday at 7.30pm in Edinburgh Place to voice its concern over tear gas use, and urged police to consider the welfare of animals in upcoming operations.

    Addressing public concerns over tear gas, police said only minimum force had been used, with the aim of dispersing crowds and restoring order.

    Thousands Evacuated as California Wildfires Rage

    Thousands Evacuated as California Wildfires Rage

    Much of California in the United States was on high alert on Friday as wind-driven wildfires tore through the state's south, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and destroying multiple structures and homes. 

    Fire officials said an 89-year-old woman died in Calimesa, about 70 miles east of Los Angeles, when fire swept through a trailer park overnight after the driver of a dust cart that caught fire dumped his burning load nearby. 

    Another man in his 50s died on Thursday night from cardiac arrest as he spoke with firefighters battling the so-called Saddleridge brush fire in the San Fernando Valley, about 32km (20 miles) north of downtown Los Angeles, fire officials said. 

    California Saddleridge fire smoke effects on dogs and pets

    That fire grew rapidly, prompting evacuation orders for more than 100,000 people. Los Angeles Fire Department Chief Ralph Terrazas said the blaze that started late on Thursday in the city of Sylmar was being fueled by dry conditions and high winds known as the Santa Ana winds. 

    "This is a very dynamic fire, Terrazas told a news conference. "Do not wait to leave," he urged residents. "If we ask you to evacuate, please evacuate." He said some 1,000 firefighters were fighting the blaze that was 13 percent contained by early afternoon and had forced the shutdown of several major highways. The metro line in the area was also shut as were schools and businesses. 

    Red flag warnings At least 25 buildings have been destroyed by the blaze, the cause of which has not been determined. "We've calculated that the fire is moving at a rate of 800 acres [325 hectares] per hour," Terrazas said, adding that it would probably take days to get it under control.

    Some 200 firefighters, water-dropping helicopters and firefighting airplanes were meanwhile battling several blazes, including the one that tore through the trailer park in Riverside County.

    California Fires cause suffering for pets, dogs, cats wildfire smoke

    There were no immediate reports of injuries, but authorities ordered some homes in the area be evacuated. The National Weather Service said it expects the high winds fanning the flames to subside, making it easier for firefighters to get the situation under control. 

    A red flag warning - which indicates ripe conditions for wildfires - remains in effect through Saturday. "That seems to be the new normal in California," lamented Sylmar resident Oscar Mancillas, as he helplessly watched the flames spread in the hillside near his home. 

    "I mean the vegetation is so dry ... but we're kind of lucky because it didn't grow back from the last fire," he told AFP news agency. "In California, you have to be earthquake ready and you have to be fire ready ... and for those of us who have a family, it's a little daunting sometimes." 

    The wildfires in the south erupted as California's largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), implemented rolling power blackouts that affected some two million people in northern California this week.

    About 312,000 customers remained in the dark on Friday as a result of the shutoffs designed to reduce the threat of wildfire that can be sparked by lines downed in strong winds. 

    Many schools and universities were also closed in northern parts of the state as people stocked up on gasoline, water, batteries and other basics, with frustration mounting at the blackouts condemned by some as "third world".

    Dogs and Wildfire Smoke

    "We're seeing a scale and scope of something that no state in the 21st century should experience," Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday, blaming decades of what he called neglect and mismanagement by PG&E. 

    "This is not, from my perspective, a climate change story as much as a story about greed and mismanagement over the course of decades," Newsom said. "Neglect, a desire to advance not public safety but profits." 

    K9 Mask for Wildfire Smoke

    PG&E has defended the outages as necessary for safety reasons and has said it will take days before power is restored to all customers as inspections must be conducted on all power lines and equipment before the lights can be turned back on. "This is not how we want to serve you but blackouts can happen again," Bill Johnson, the CEO of the company said on Thursday. 

    Last November, PG&E's faulty power lines were determined to have sparked the deadliest wildfire in the state's modern history, which killed 86 and destroyed the town of Paradise.

    Windy Conditions Fear of Fires Cause Power Cut

    California Cuts Power as Wildfire Risks Increase

    High winds pose a greater threat of wildfires in California resulting in one of the largest preemptive power blackouts in the state's history as dry conditions are expected to raise the risk for millions of people in the coming days.

    The outages could start early Wednesday morning, Pacific Gas & Electric said in a press release Tuesday. The utility said the shutoffs were being considered based on a fire weather watch from the National Weather Service. 

    PG&E, which has 5 million customers in California, said the shutoffs could impact nearly 800,000 customers in 34 northern, central and coastal counties. 

    PG&E spokesman Jason King told weather.com Monday that any outages would affect "portions of those counties." He could not speculate on the probability of all of PG&E's customers in the affected areas being without power at the same time. 

    California Cutting Power in Fear of Wildfires

    Portions of the West Coast and the Southeast are under threat for wildfires, according to the National Weather Service. California utility Pacific Gas & Electric says its customers in 34 counties could face preemptive power outages later this week. 

    "What we're working on right now is determining if and where we'll need to turn off power in the interest of public safety," King said. "Our meteorology and our operations teams are monitoring conditions in real time. (A) determination hasn't (been) made yet what portions of each of the counties will be turned off." 

    A power shutoff over the weekend affected 10,300 PG&E customers in Butte, Plumas and Yuba counties, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Those three counties are also included in the new alert. 

    In addition to the 800,000 or so PG&E customers who could be impacted by blackouts, more than 100,000 Southern California Edison customers in eight counties could also see preventive outages in southern portions of the state, according to the Associated Press. 

    Windy conditions can cause power lines to spark fires when they are blown down or to come into contact with trees or other vegetation. PG&E power lines have been blamed for several high profile fires in recent years, including the blaze that killed 86 people last year in Paradise, California.

    California Wildfires and Wind

    Hundreds of thousands of California homes and businesses started to lose electric power early Wednesday as part of an unprecedented effort by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. to prevent wildfires, the utility said. Nearly 800,000 northern and central California homes and businesses can expect to lose electricity for up to several days, starting on Wednesday, PG&E said. State investigators determined in May that PG&E transmission lines had caused last year's Camp Fire. That fire killed 85 people, making it the deadliest in California's history.

    The company had already filed for bankruptcy protection by then, citing potential liabilities of more than $30 billion from the Camp Fire and the 2017 North Bay Fires. Conditions before the fires were about the same then as they are now in the region. Gale-force winds are expected to last through midday Thursday, with gusts up to 70 miles per hour, PG&E said. Humidity is low, leaving the air extremely dry.

    The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said "red-flag" warnings were posted across the entire state for what was shaping up to be the strongest wind so far this season. Consequently, PG&E said on Tuesday it was extending a previously announced "public safety power shutoff" to 34 counties, more than half of all the counties in California. It's the largest such precautionary outage the utility has undertaken to date. Once power is turned off, it cannot be restored until the winds subside, allowing the utility to inspect equipment for damage and make any repairs, PG&E said.

    The first phase of the outages, affecting about 513,000 customers in northern California, began after midnight, PG&E said in an early morning release. Depending on the weather, additional outages will continue at noon, the company said. "We're telling customers to be prepared for an outage that could last several days," PG&E spokeswoman Tamar Sarkissian told Reuters.

    Some consumer advocates have objected to the precautionary disruptions, saying they can harm people who need electricity for medical equipment. But PG&E promised to open community centers in 30 locations across the planned outage zone to furnish restrooms, bottled water, battery charging and air-conditioned seating during daytime hours. Sarkissian said PG&E had placed 45 helicopter crews and 700 extra ground personnel on standby for inspections and repairs once the wind dies down. Some equipment locations will require workers to hike into remote or mountainous areas, she said.

    California and the Southeast expected to have above normal wildfire activity

    California and Southeast Expect Above Normal Wildfire Activity

    On October 1 the Predictive Services section at the National Interagency Fire Center issued their Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for October through January. The data represents the cumulative forecasts of the ten Geographic Area Predictive Services Units and the National Predictive Services Unit.

    If NIFC’s analysis is correct, the Southeastern United States and areas of California will have areas with above average potential for wildfires through December. Below: An excerpt from the NIFC narrative report for the next several months; More of NIFC’s monthly graphical outlooks; NOAA’s three-month temperature and precipitation forecasts; Drought Monitor; Vegetation greenness map; Keetch-Byram Drought Index.

    From NIFC: “Both [California and the Southeast] appear to have areas of elevated large fire potential entering the fall, especially across the Southeast where drought is emerging in the Appalachians. In California, fuels remain receptive to fire activity under critical fire weather conditions in the middle and lower elevations.

    California and the Southeast expected to have above normal wildfire activity

    The grass crop remains dense. This should remain a concern heading through October, November, and into December. In the Southeast, the persisting dry conditions will allow for the fuels to continue to dry which will allow for the large fire potential to continue to gradually elevate until the frequency of passing weather systems begin to increase in December and January.”

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