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Smoke blankets Bega valley

A THICK blanket of smoke lay  across the Bega Valley on Saturday after a bushfire at Millingandi destroyed two homes and two sheds late on Friday.
Temperatures soared across the region on Friday.
Records were broken at nearly every south coast weather station recorded by – including at Bega (44.6C) and Merimbula (44C).
Across south-eastern New South Wales firefighters have taken advantage of the cooler weather to gain control of several fires   burning throughout the region.
Fires near Cooma, Yass and Boorowa have been classified as ‘‘advice’’ after easing winds and temperatures allowed crews to contain them. More than 60 firefighters remain on the ground near Boorowa.
The hot conditions, coupled with strong north-westerly winds,  fanned the large bushfire five  kilometres west of Merimbula in the Millingandi area near Bega, which burnt out of control, threatening homes and the native animal sanctuary Potoroo Palace.
Late in the afternoon the fire crossed the Princes Highway and started spotting into the Bournda Nature Reserve.
At lunchtime on Saturday the fire was ‘‘being controlled’’ and the alert level had been downgraded to ‘‘advice’’ with backburning operations being carried out on Millingandi Road and surrounding areas.
According to Rural Fire Service Far South Coast community safety officer Marty Webster,  ‘‘the fire conditions on the ground were reasonably stable [Saturday]  morning. Essential Energy declared the area safe and we are now working on a hazard assessment.’’
Mr Webster said it was pleasing to see residents in the area with bushfire survival plans put them into action early, with many residents choosing to leave the area for either Merimbula or Bega.
The RFS set up evacuation centres at Club Sapphire Merimbula and the Bega Showground, where Mr Webster said 10 people turned up, mainly Wolumla residents who had received emergency alert messages as a precaution.
He said others had chosen to stay with friends and family as part of their bushfire plan.