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Facing the fire at Deans Gap

The bush fire at Deans Gap, west of Wandandian in NSW's Shoalhaven region, was the biggest concern for firefighters on Tuesday after it went out of control and spread over 1000 hectares. Amanda Hoh reports.

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Volunteer Rural Fire Service members from Bungendore RFS.

Volunteer Rural Fire Service members from Bungendore RFS. Photo: Getty Images

Thirty-seven local government areas across New South Wales will be able to access natural disaster assistance as bushfires continued to tear through the state on Wednesday evening.

Affected communities such as Queanbeyan, Cooma-Monaro, Palerang and Goulburn Mulwaree will receive assistance from joint Federal and State funding, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said. 

Loans of up to $130,000 will be made available for eligible farmers and businesses in urgent need following the fires, which continue to spread through areas such as Jugiong near Yass.

Smoke rises from the Yarrabin bushfire, burning out of control near Cooma, about 100km (62 miles) south of Canberra. Click for more photos

NSW and ACT Fires - 8th January 2013

Smoke rises from the Yarrabin bushfire, burning out of control near Cooma, about 100km (62 miles) south of Canberra. Photo: REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

 

Smoke over ACT not cause for alarm: emergency services

The large amounts of smoke currently hovering over Canberra has drifted  from fires in Shoalhaven and is no cause for alarm, according to authorities. 

The city has experienced significant smoke cover tonight, causing some concern among residents.

But the Emergency Services Agency has assured Canberrans there is no current danger.

The smoke has been carried from the Deans Gap fire, west of Wandandian in NSW’s Shoalhaven region.

That fire is still burning out of control.

‘‘There [are] currently no fires in the ACT generating this smoke,’’ the agency said in a statement.

 

Yarrabin fire (affecting areas near Cooma, Kybeyan Valley, Numeralla)

A family remains in emergency accommodation after their Mount Forest Road home was destroyed by fire on Tuesday.

Though the time of the incident is yet to be confirmed, authorities said the blaze consumed the small home on Mount Forest Road belonging to the family of five sometime on Tuesday.

“Those people have since been put up in emergency accommodation,” a spokeswoman said.

“The fire services were there at the time, extinguishing everything. They did everything they could… but unfortunately there were still some hot spots in the ground that ignited the building.”

The incident remains the only known structural damage bar a small shed.

At 6pm Wednesday, the fire front was about 20km east of Cooma burning out of control through the Kybeyan Valley area, and there was limited access to Tuross River Road.

As the weather begins to warm up again and winds pick up, conditions in the area are expected to deteriorate over Friday and Saturday.

The fire has burnt through 6500 hectares and the cause is being investigated.

Cobbler Road fire (affecting areas near Jugiong, Yass, Bookham and Bowning)

A fire burning west of Yass has been the focus of a concentrated effort by NSW Rural Fire Service on Wednesday, as crews fight to contain the fire before a return of hot, windy conditions later in the week.

The Cobbler Road fire has burnt out 16,279 hectares so far, and was on Wednesday afternoon burning 11 kilometers west of Yass.

At 6pm Wednesday the RFS were undertaking property protection at at homes on Childowla, Bibinda. There was a possibility that properties on Black Range Road would come under threat later in the evening.

Earlier in the day, a spokesperson said the fire was ‘‘top of the priority list’’ for RFS crews today.

‘‘The fire is currently approaching the Yass River area, and there will be a concentration of effort there today,’’ the spokesperson said.

The fire has crossed Burrinjuck and Black Range Roads, and authorities are advising people in the Burrinjuck Dam area to shelter should the fire impact, as it is too late to leave.

Properties in the Ferndale, Sunnyside, Spring Vale, Wattle Valley, Yowerweema, Katandee and Euralia areas were advised that the fire may impact within the next two to six hours. There was also a property on Glenroy Road that may come in contact with the fire. This advice remained in place 6pm.

A relocation centre has been put in place in Bookham, and is currently being utilised by a number of people and animals.

The Hume Highway was open to traffic this morning, however the RFS is warning that fire and flames may be visible from the road. There are reports homes south of Bookham were without power.

The townships of Yass and Bowning are not currently being impacted, but residents are being warned to take precautions as wind blows smoke over.

Bushfire Impact Assessment teams were heading towards the area to assess the damage, and confirm any property losses, including expected significant loss of livestock.

Sand Hills fire (affecting areas east of Bungendore, Kings Highway)

The threat from the Sand Hills fire east of Bungendore decreased significantly overnight with the change in weather, however the Kings Highway remains closed as fire fighting efforts continue.

Crews from NSW and the ACT are now backburning and putting in containment lines, Rural Fire Service incident controller Tim Carroll said.

“It’s been controlled, but we’re not calling to contained just yet,” he said.

Mr Carroll said the Kings Highway remained closed as crews deal with burnt trees, a number of which have fallen onto the road.

“We’re working to get the highway open as quickly as possible,” he said.

“We hope it could be as early as this afternoon.”

As of 6am, the fire had burnt through 1123 hectares with a burnt perimeter of 17kms.

Deans Gap fire (affecting areas near Wandandian, Sussex Inlet)

Closer to the coast, a fire burning near Sussex Inlet conitnues to burn. The Deans Gap fire has a perimeter of 44km and has burnt out over 4000 hectares.

At 6pm Wednesday, fire was burning to the south of Sussex Inlet Road in the Jerrwongala area. The RFS were concentrating efforts on the north eastern and western side of the Princes Highway and aircraft were working to slow this section of the blaze. 

Coastal villages at Sussex Inlet and further south, and the township of Wandandian, were also potentially under threat.

Fire crews are strategically positioned to protect properties.

The Princes Highway will be intermittently opened throughout the day to allow some traffic through under police escort. Motorists are still advised to avoid the area or delay travel if possible.

At 6pm Sussex inlet Road was open to local traffic only and Braidwood Road, Turpentine Road, Wandean Road and Twelve Mile Road were closed.

Evacuation Centres in Sussex Inlet are now closed.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is among additional firefighting crews deployed to the area.

ACT emergency services rest, regroup

Meanwhile, in Canberra, a report from a reconnaissance flight over Namadgi National Park this morning did not find any fires. Further observation flights will be conducted over the next few days.

A number of ACT RFS volunteer crews are assisting in NSW, while other volunteers are taking advantage of cooler conditions today to rest.

Acting ESA commissioner Tony Graham said authorities were using the two cooler days predicted to rest, regroup, reassess and resupply in preparation for a return of dangerous conditions later in the week.

“If we can get two days of no fire activity, it just freshens up the crews,’’ he said. “Whilst we’ve got a number of crews out and about at the moment, we’ve still got a much larger number not being utilised.’’

Overnight, ACT Fire and Rescue assisted NSW crews at a fire at Eagle Hawk Caravan Park, just north of the ACT border on the Federal Highway, shortly after 2am. The fire was brought under control overnight.

The ACT SES received a total of 161 calls for help from across the territory following the windy weather on Tuesday, mostly for fallen trees and branches, and some structural damage to pergolas, houses and fences.

A total fire ban remains in place in both the ACT and NSW today, with a forecast fire danger rating of very high in the ACT.

The forecast in the territory is for a relatively mild top of 28 degrees, 10 degrees cooler than Tuesday's top of 38, with light winds in the early afternoon.

But the ACT will enjoy only a brief respite from the dangerous fire conditions, with a top of 36 forecast for Friday and a windy 37 degrees predicted for Saturday.

Mr Graham said forecasts of hot temperatures and high winds on Saturday were concerning.

“If we have a 38 degree day, with 35km/h winds, particularly coming from the north-west where all that hot air has been moving through – if we get a fire, we’re going to have jump on that very, very quickly,’’ he said.