Siding Spring Observatory Fire Update


For footage of the press conference held on January 14th, please visit the ANU YouTube channel.

Siding Spring Observatory will be closed for the next two weeks to enable a full assessment of the damage caused by the Wambelong Fire, and to ensure the site is safe for staff prior to their return.

The priority at this stage is the safety and wellbeing of staff and their families, a number of whom have lost their homes in the fire. All 18 people at the Observatory were evacuated to Coonabarabran yesterday afternoon and are confirmed safe. A further 10 people who were scheduled to arrive at the Observatory had their visit postponed.

Additional ANU staff who have travelled to Siding Spring from Canberra today are expected to arrive this afternoon to relieve the staff on site, and assist with damage assessment, clean-up, restoration of services and administration.

An additional team, including Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics Director Professor Mathew Colless, and support staff including a staff counsellor, will travel to Coonabarabran on Wednesday to meet with affected staff and their families.

The University is assessing the alternative accommodation needs for affected staff, and is looking into options for an emergency appeal for members of the ANU and wider community who wish to support affected staff and their families.

The NSW Rural Fire Service was able to access the site late last night to put out spot fires.

Access to the site remains limited, and the NSW Rural Fire Service has a current presence on the mountain.

The Observatory has survived with some damage and some loss of buildings.

The initial assessment indicates that five buildings have been severely affected or damaged, including the Lodge used to accommodate visiting researchers, a number of cottages, the Visitors Centre and a number of sheds. Two of the four water pumps have also been affected, and work is being undertaken to restore them.

An initial visual assessment this morning indicated that no telescopes appear to have received major damage, but the impact of the fire on the instruments will not be known until a technical inspection of the telescopes can be done when the site is safe.

The University has approximately $80m of assets at Siding Spring Observatory, which are fully covered with an extensive insurance arrangement.

Power was shut down temporarily this morning to enable staff to carry out a check of power connections across the Observatory.

A further update will be issued as soon as more detailed information is available.
9:00 am Monday 14 January 2013

We are currently undertaking an assessment of the damage at Siding Spring Observatory from the Wambelong Fire.

All 18 people at the Observatory were evacuated to Coonabarabran at around 4pm yesterday afternoon and confirmed safe.

The NSW Rural Fire Service was able to access the site late last night to put out spot fires.

The Observatory has survived with some damage and some loss of buildings.

An initial assessment indicates that five buildings have been severely affected or damaged, including the Lodge used to accommodate visiting researchers and a number of cottages and sheds. A fire has been extinguished at the Visitors Centre this morning . We expect the Visitor Centre has been severely damaged.

An initial visual assessment indicated that no telescopes appear to have received major damage, but the impact of the fire on the instruments will not be known until later today.

Power will be shut down temporarily this morning to enable staff to carry out a check of power connections across the Observatory.

Additional ANU staff are travelling to Siding Spring from Canberra today to assist with damage assessment, clean-up, restoration of services and administration.

A further update will be issued as soon as more detailed information is available.

Background
Siding Spring Observatory (SSO), in the Warrumbungle Mountains near Coonabarabran, NSW, is Australia's premier optical and infrared observatory.

The observatory site is owned and operated by The Australian National University and is home to all the research telescopes of the university. SSO also hosts a growing number of other national and international facilities, with more telescopes planned to be built and commissioned between now and 2015. The telescopes at the site include the 3.9m diameter Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), the largest optical telescope in Australia.

ANU 2.3m Telescope
ANU Skymapper Telescope
Uppsala Near Earth Object Survey Telescope
3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope
United Kingdom Schmidt Telescope
Hat-South Telescope Network
Solaris Telescope
Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment - ROTSE
UNSW Automated Patrol Telescope
Faulkes Telescope South
i-Telescope.net
ANU 40 inch Telescope (decommissioned)
ANU 16 inch Telescope (decommissioned)
ANU 24 inch Telescope (decommissioned)

Information for staff and students

Weather conditions in the coming days may increase the threat of bushfires in the ACT and surrounding regions. It's timely to check your emergency mobile details are correctly registered on HORUS/ISIS to ensure you receive any emergency SMS messages from the University. Instructions for registering an emergency mobile number are included at the bottom of the page.

A HIGH fire danger rating has been declared for today in the ACT and Northern Slopes.

If the Fire Danger Rating in the ACT changes to CATASTROPHIC we will close Mt Stromlo, Spring Valley Farm and the Paleomagnetic Laboratory at Black Mountain.

If there are any closures affecting the Acton Campus you will be advised via email and the University's SMS Emergency system.

Updates will also be posted on the University's home page - www.anu.edu.au.

All staff should prepare themselves for possible University evacuations. We ask that you also remain extremely vigilant at all times, and in particular to the risk of falling branches as a consequence of high winds.

For the latest fire information please listen to local radio station ABC 666 and monitor www.esa.act.gov.au.

Please check back for regular updates.

Instructions for adding an Emergency Mobile

Log onto HORUS/ISIS using your University ID and password

Click on "Personal information summary" under 'Personal Information'

Under the "phone numbers" box, click the button that says "Change phone numbers"

Click the button that says "Add a phone number"

From the drop down list, choose "Emergency Mobile" and enter mobile number, then save

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