January bushfire an environmental disaster for Australian Capital Territory: expert

CANBERRA, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- A bushfire that burned in January and February has been declared the worst-ever environmental disaster in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).


A bushfire burns near the town of Bumbalong, south of Canberra on February 2, 2020. (Photo: AFP)

The Orroral Valley bushfire burned more than 80,000 hectares of land and destroyed 80 percent of the Namadgi National Park southwest of Canberra, Australia's capital city.

It triggered a state of emergency in the ACT for the first time since the 2003 bushfires that killed four people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Brett McNamara, an ACT Parks manager for three decades, said that the impact of the fire on the national park was heart-breaking.

"While Canberra has been saved - we haven't had the dramatic loss of houses or property or life - what we have lost to some extent is the ecological integrity of an area that all of us love," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) on Sunday.

"It has been confronting."

The Orroral Valley fire was sparked by the landing light of an Australian Defence Force (ADF) helicopter in January.

It was the most significant bushfire threat to Canberra since 2003 but was brought under control before it reached the capital.

Despite the devastation wreaked by the fire, the ACT government remains optimistic that the national park will recover.

"That's the wonderful thing about nature - it does respond very well," the ACT's environment directorate head Ian Walker, said.

"It certainly looks like a dead landscape but there are still animals in the landscape, kangaroos, echidnas, they're still persisting, and that gives me immense hope."