Smoke haze blanketing the Nambucca valley expected to last a few more days says Rural Fire Service

Smoke on the water…

Today residents of the Nambucca begrudgingly left the warmth of their blankets to find themselves enveloped in a blanket of a different kind.

A think layer of smoke covered the valley this morning, obscuring visibility and making breathing difficult for some.

The wild, dry and cool weather over the past few days has run local firefighters ragged, as they were repeatedly called to put out a series of forest fires throughout the valley, including one in the Nambucca State Forest on Friday afternoon.

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But Lower North Coast zone manager for the Rural Fire Service, Superintendent Lachlann Ison said the main smoky culprit was a forest fire at Bellbucca Road within the Bellingen shire.

That fire is ‘still well and truly going’, after evading Forest Corporation NSW and RFS firefighters’ best efforts over the weekend.

“We’ve finally gotten to a point where we can counter it, but we’re in a holding pattern until that weather pattern changes and we get significant rain."

Superintendent Ison

“The fire is now coming down the ridges, so we’re still working with residents to ensure the safety of private properties.”

The fire near Oakes has chewed through 500 hectares of state forest, but is currently being controlled.

The gusty south-westerlies over the weekend, which reached a peak of 57km/hr according to the Bureau of Meterology, blew the smoke from the Bellingen fire towards the Nambucca Valley.

The smog is likely to hang around for a few more days says Superintendent Ison, as the Bellbucca fire continues to smoulder and routine hazard burnoffs from Forest Corp NSW contribute to the grey.

“If you are undertaking any hazard reduction burning activities, please first check to see there are no other fires in your area, and make sure you take all necessary precautions,” Superintendent Ison said.

The Bureau of Meteorology said that the south-westerlies have abated for now and been replaced by milder northerly winds. 

The cool winter morning’s surface inversion effect, in which the ground temperature is lower than the air temperatures above, was the key cause of the smog being trapped low on the horizon.

But as the day heats up, the smoke will get a chance to rise, alleviating the haze slightly. 

However rain is still not on the forecast, with the earliest chance of a shower happening on Sunday. 

The North Coast Public Health Unit advises people to consider their health while smoke from bushfires and hazard reduction burning is affecting air quality.

Fine smoke particles are known to affect the human breathing system. The smaller or finer the particles, the deeper they go into the lungs.

These particles can cause a variety of health problems, such as itchy or burning eyes, throat irritation, runny nose and illnesses such as bronchitis.

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

Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit, Paul Corben urged at-risk locals to stay indoors as much as possible.

“People with asthma and other lung conditions should not engage in vigorous exercise and, if possible, they should stay in air-conditioned premises where filtration systems can help to reduce smoke particles in the air,” Mr Corben said.

“Symptoms can occur for several days after smoke is inhaled, so people with the chronic respiratory conditions need to be vigilant with their treatment programs.

“If you have asthma or a lung condition and you develop symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, follow your Asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Action Plan.

“If symptoms do not settle, seek medical advice. If you are on home oxygen treatment, continue as prescribed and if breathlessness worsens, contact your doctor.”