Some essential travel services have been temporarily suspended and commutes thrown into disarray as a thick blanket of smoke haze engulfs Sydney.
Several ferry services were temporarily cancelled, a flight turned around mid-air and outdoor workers were encouraged to drop the tools, as a blanket of smoke haze wreaked havoc in Sydney.
Passengers on-board a Virgin Australia flight from Melbourne to Sydney were told the weather was not suitable to land in the Harbour City on all runways.
The conditions and a lack of fuel forced the plane to turn back around to Melbourne after it travelled as far as Canberra.
The smoke haze came after NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) used a break in the weather to carry out hazard reduction burns.
Controlled burns have taken place on the Central Coast, Blue Mountains, Hawkesbury and Sutherland Shire.
Department of Primary Industries has issued a statement on Monday morning classifying the air quality as “poor”.
It caused the F3 Parramatta River, F4 Pyrmont Bay and F8 Cockatoo Island ferries to stop running temporarily.
“Make alternative travel arrangements and consider catching a train or regular bus instead,” Sydney Ferries posted on Twitter.
However, the services were restored just before 10am.
The smoke is expected to clear later on Monday morning, but it could hang around in Sydney’s western suburbs longer.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has warned that road conditions will be dangerous, and motorists are advised to take extreme care.
“Fog developed in the western suburbs, and it’s currently making its way east and moving over the eastern suburbs, so expecting driving conditions to be a little bit hazardous,” meteorologist James Taylor said.
“When we get cool air and clear sky, it‘s good for trapping smoke down close to the surface, it’s also very good conditions for fog formation.”
The RFS said in a statement it had postponed some controlled burning operations while the smoke cleared.
“Light winds and an overnight inversion has resulted in smoke settling in low-lying residential areas. Smoke is forecast to then begin to lift and clear across the morning as the day begins to warm up,” it said.
“Strategies have been put in place to reduce the impact of smoke on the community, including the postponement of a number of planned burns and a reduction in area burnt for others.
“Hazard reduction burning is strategically planned to minimise the potential impact of smoke on public health; however, some members of the community may need to take action to mitigate the risks of smoke from hazard reduction burning by planning ahead.”
The Electrical Trades Union urged caution for its members working on the tools.
In a statement, ETU NSW secretary Allen Hicks said workers had rights to stop work if the air quality was unsafe.
“In large swathes of Sydney today, air quality is a threat to the health of people working outdoors. Those workers need to know if their employer can’t protect them from smoke exposure they have the right to stop work,” he said.
“Smoke from hazard reduction burns can badly irritate the eyes and throat. Bushfire smoke also contains particles which can affect lung health, particularly for people who already suffer from conditions such as asthma or emphysema.
“These particles can place extra stress on the heart – leading to increased risk of heart attack. “We have informed our members that they should protect their health and stop work if they are concerned about exposure to hazard reduction smoke in their workplace. We are actively monitoring this situation.”