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Canberra police door-knocking to alert residents as bushfire grows

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

The Orroral Valley bushfire has already torn through more than 9500 hectares of land and is threatening homes around Canberra.

A fierce bushfire burning south of Canberra that has been threatening homes has been downgraded.

The Orroral fire, burning in the Orroral Valley, is still raging out-of-control and has already torn through more than 9500 hectares of land in the Namadgi National Park.

The blaze reached the emergency warning level earlier in the night but has since eased and is at a watch and act level, with authorities still warning it is the most serious Canberra has faced since the deadly 2003 fires.

Spot fires ahead of the main front were earlier anticipated to reach within 1km of the capital's far southern suburb of Banks last night.

Authorities door-knocked in Banks, Condor and Gordon through the night were relaying the latest advice to residents, however the move was not yet an evacuation order.

Operation Bushfire Relief's Lieutenant General Greg Bilton told reporters this evening a defence reconnaissance helicopter was believed to have started the fire.

He said the heat of the landing light likely started a grass fire under the chopper when it landed in the park, with the fire growing rapidly and damaging the craft before it took off.

Lt Gen Bilton said defence would be further investigating the cause of the fire but had ceased use of that type of landing light in the meantime.

Residents of the small rural village of Tharwa south of Canberra were told late this afternoon it was too late to leave and they should seek shelter.

The fire was heading east and northeast towards Canberra and growing at a rate of 400 hectares per hour.

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Canberra residents in the far southern suburbs were told to activate their bushfire survival plans, with an evacuation centre set up at Erindale College.

Earlier, Caloola Farm manager Ralph Hurst-Meyers was desperately trying to convince three men still on the farm near the blaze to leave as they planned to defend the property.

"It just looks like a dragon, it's unbelievable. It's like a mushroom cloud with a red eye," he said.

He said firefighters had told him the farm would become a trap if the fire reached there and said it was too dangerous to defend it.

Mr Hurst-Meyers said he had been in Canberra for the catastrophic 2003 bushfire and he'd learned it wasn't worth holding your ground.

"I know what the beast looks like. I've seen this before. This is a shocker," he said.

Emergency warning for a bushfire burning near the Namadgi National Park south of Canberra.

ACT Emergency Services Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said ACT Fire and Rescue as well as ACT RFS personnel had all been recalled to help fight the fire.

"The fire is not contained. This fire will burn for several weeks," Ms Whelan said.

She said hot, dry weather and enormous fuel loads were making it difficult to fight the blaze.

"The heat and the erratic winds will only make the situation worse," she said.

Source: 9News

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