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    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.

    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.”

    Effects of Air Pollution on Pets and Dogs

    How Air Pollution Effects Your Pets

    People aren't the only ones who can suffer ill effects from exposure to air pollution. Many pet owners have concerns about the effects of air pollution on their animals, and scientists are beginning to study the potential risks for pets that have exposure to air pollution.

    Research has confirmed the dangers of air pollution for humans. People who are exposed to excessive air pollution have an increased risk of developing respiratory issues such as wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Cardiovascular disease is another potential health issue connected to exposure to air pollution. Those with pre-existing cardiovascular disease as well as elderly people and young children may even be at risk for premature death from pollution exposure.

    Urban Air Pollution and Pets

    Sources of Air Pollution

    Air pollution originates from many different sources. Fumes from wildfire smoke, vehicle traffic, power plants, construction, the burning of coal and gasoline. Homes can be filled with pollution from sources such as wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, tobacco smoke, and cooking. Pets living in urban areas have a higher exposure to and risk from smog and exhaust pollutants, while animals living in rural areas may be exposed to chemicals due to the spraying of herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides.

    Scientific Studies about Air Pollution

    Studies have shown that pets living in homes with cigarette-smokers have increased health risks, perhaps even greater than those for humans living in the same homes. This is because pets spent more time near the floor, where smoke concentrations are higher. Cats exposed to secondhand smoke have been shown to have reduced lung function when compared to felines living in smoke-free homes, according to scientific research. Scientists are also exploring links between common indoor activities such as smoking and the use of cleaning products and certain cancers in dogs.

    Pets are also at risk from outdoor air pollution. In a recent study of dogs in Mexico City, scientists examined the brains of local dogs to compare them with the brains of dogs in cities with less pollution. The brains of dogs living in Mexico City showed inflammation, amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles, which are associated with Alzheimer's disease in humans.

    Another study conducted by the University of Massachusetts and the Tufts University Cummings School of Medicine involved 700 dog owners and their use of pesticides. The results showed that about a third of the dogs had canine malignant lymphoma, a type of cancer. The study also showed that the dogs had a 70 percent higher chance of developing lymphoma if the owners used pesticides in their yards.

    Affect of Air Pollution on Animals and Pets

    Cats have also been found to be more likely to develop asthma when exposed to indoor or outdoor pollutants. Felines living in homes where a wood-burning fireplace is in use or smoking occurs are often found to have a marked decrease in lung function.

    Taking Steps to Reduce Pets' Exposure to Air Pollution

    Because many pets spend the majority of their time indoors or in their yard, it's important for owners to take steps to minimize exposure to air pollution both inside and out.

    • Change air filters often.
    • Vacuum frequently to remove hair and other pollutants.
    • Avoid smoking indoors.
    • Choose chemical-free cleaning products when possible.
    • Reduce carbon emissions when possible by carpooling, taking a bus, or biking.
    • Choose areas for outdoor exercise of pets where the air is cleaner (away from highways).
    • Use chemical-free products in the yard whenever possible.

    Dog Air Pollution Filter Mask

    Our dog pollution mask is engineered for extreme environments. We use N95 and PM2.5 dog pollution mask air filter protection including Activated Carbon air filters. K9 Mask dog muzzle filter technology protects against smoke, smog, emissions, mold, allergies, toxins, chemicals, and bacteria. Created for dogs to uniquely fit the shape of a dog muzzle and protect a dog from extreme air pollution. K9 Masks are washable and have air filter refills for pure air every time your dog wears it. Choose clean air for your dog.

    More About Pets and Air Pollution:

    Wildfire and Smoke: Preparations And Evacuation Plan For Dogs

    Wildfire and Smoke: Preparations And Evacuation Plan For Dogs

    Wildfires and related smoke endanger property, people, and are beloved pets. In 2018, the Mendocino Complex Fire burned hundreds of square miles, the Holy Fire caused more than 20,000 people to evacuate from their homes, and those were only two of the several wildfires that burned in the state of California, alone.

    The almost unimaginable devastation serves as a reminder that we must protect what is most precious–our lives and the lives of our loved ones, including our animal companions. If you haven’t already prepared your human family and dogs with a plan that includes what to do in the event of an evacuation, now is the time. 

    Even if you end up not needing to evacuate, it’s better to have a plan and not need it than to need a plan and not have one. Read these helpful tips for preparing for a wildfire and evacuating with your dogs.

    Emergency Alerts

    First, you need a way to stay updated on the emergencies in your area and know whether an evacuation is necessary. There are several ways to get emergency notifications, and it’s best to have multiple ways to receive communications in case one method fails.

    Staying alert helps you prepare your household and your pets if the worst happens. Follow these tips:

    • Understand the risks for where you live. The USDA Forest Service created a wildfire hazard potential (WHP) map of the U.S. that indicates how likely it is for a wildfire to affect you. Risks change depending on precipitation and other factors, but checking this map may be a good first step in preparing yourself.
    • Download the FEMA mobile app to your smart phone. This app sends you notifications about natural disasters from the National Weather Service, gives you preparedness tips, and helps locate shelters among other things. Some reviewers claim the app sends too many notifications, but the app gets updates frequently to address user issues, and it’s better to be too informed than not informed at all.
    • The ASPCA mobile app can also help you prepare for a disaster, manage your pet’s health records, and provide you with resources to help you find a lost pet should you get separated.
    • Have a hand crank or solar-powered radio, and set the frequency to a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) station. It will help you stay informed in the event that your phone dies or other communications go out, and these stations broadcast 24/7.

    Preparing for evacuating your family and dogs

    Places Where You Can Go

    If an evacuation occurs, you’ll need a safe place to go that will allow your whole family and pets to stay. Then, make sure your family knows where to go in case you are separated or unable to reunite before evacuating.

    There are several options that might work for your individual situation, and some options might be ruled out if they are also located in a place affected by wildfires. However, note that many evacuation centers do not accept pets due to health and safety regulations, so do not rely on them as an option unless they specifically tell you pets are allowed.

    Additionally, plan for a backup in case your first emergency meetup location isn’t usable. Consider the following options:

      • The best option is to have a friend or family member who can take you in for a while. Try to pick someone who lives far enough away that you can escape danger. Also, think of several different family members or friends in case your top choice is dealing with an emergency, too.
      • Create a list of hotels and motels that allow pets. Make sure that you find a few options, as some locations may also be in the path of a wildfire. Several websites let you search specifically for lodgings that allow pets, including bringfido.com, expedia.com, and hotels.petswelcome.com.
      • If you must go to a place with your family that does not allow pets, like an emergency evacuation center, look for a pet sitter, kennel, vet’s office, or animal shelter, as sometimes these places make special arrangements for pets in cases of emergencies and natural disasters. Call ahead.

    Prepare Your Dog for Wildfire Evacuation

    Make Plans For Your Dogs

    Your pets can’t possibly know how to prepare themselves for an evacuation, so it’s your job to make preparations for them. Start taking these steps well in advance of an emergency.

    Some of them you can even do right now.

    • If you live in an area where wildfires are a possible threat, keep your pets inside whenever it’s not necessary for them to be outdoors, and have them on leash and supervised when they are outside. Animals can bolt and hide when they are afraid, and that can make them difficult to find when a few moments can make the difference between getting out and getting hurt. You need to have a way to keep them under control and easy to reach. Frightened pets can hop fences, chew through leashes, and ignore learned commands. Keep them safe.
    • Update your pet’s microchip and collar identification. Make sure the contact information is accurate, and have an emergency contact number listed in addition to your own, just in case you can’t get to your phone. If your pet gets lost, this is one of your best chances of being reunited with them.
    • Get a fire alert sticker for your front door. This sticker should let firefighters know how many pets are in your home. If you can’t get to your pet before being evacuated, or if you can’t find them and need to escape right away, the sticker will help emergency responders save your animals.
    • Get your neighbors’ contact information. If you can’t make it home, designate one of your neighbors as a person you can call to pick up your pets and take them to safety if the worst should happen. Discuss this with them before an emergency occurs. Find a few backup neighbors in case any of them aren’t home.

    Dog Emergency Kit with Air Pollution Dog Filter Mask

    Pack Your Emergency Kit Ahead of Time

    You’ll need several supplies for your pets to take care of them while you’re away from home. Keep these supplies together in a place where you can grab them and go, if necessary. Also, pack an emergency kit for humans with supplies for yourself and your human family members.

    Your pet emergency kit should be easy to pack, but it should also contain all of the essentials you’ll need for a few days. Here are some of the things you should pack:

    • A pet first-aid kit. You should ask your veterinarian for a checklist of things to pack in a first-aid kit for your individual pets. Click here for more info on what should be included in a first-aid kit for pets.
    • The ASPCA recommends you pack three to seven days worth of food for each pet.
    • Medical records and recent photos for each pet. You can store these on a flash drive if it is easier.
    • A week’s worth of any medication your pets might need.
    • Paper towels, litter boxes, poop bags, garbage bags, or other supplies to clean up after your pets.
    • Disinfectant or dish soap.
    • Seven days worth of water for each person and pet (replace every two months it goes unused)
    • Air pollution mask for adults, children, and an air filter for mask for the dog.
    • Crates, carriers, and bedding.
    • Extra supplies like leashes, toys, harnesses, collars, food and water bowls, etc.

    Evacuating Dogs from Wildfire Smoke

    Evacuating With Your Dog

    If you are told to evacuate, take your pets with you and leave immediately, even if you do not see signs of immediate danger. Furthermore, do not wait for the evacuation to become mandatory. Many people who are forced to evacuate are instructed to leave pets behind. Don’t let that become your only option.

    Follow the instructions of emergency service workers and get your family and pets to safety. Here are a few tips to follow:

    • If you need to evacuate quickly, leave non-essential material possessions behind. No object is worth risking your life or the lives of your pets and family.
    • Do not allow your pets to roam or get loose. Keep them in carriers or on-leash at all times. They will be in a stressful situation and potentially in unfamiliar places, which may frighten them enough to run away.
    • Stick to your pets’ usual feeding and medication schedules as much as possible.
    • Make sure your pets are wearing identification at all times.
    • Remain calm and don’t take chances. Confirm that everyone in your party knows where you are going and who to contact if you get separated, and there should be no confusion about who is responsible for caring for pets at any moment. Don’t assume someone else in the family is paying attention to your pets at all times. Take shifts or have a designated caretaker.
    • Stay informed. Listen to emergency stations and notifications. Do not return home until you receive the all-clear.

    What other tips do you recommend for dog owners who need to evacuate due to a wildfire? Also, what preparations have you made to evacuate if you need to?

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