Fire-fighters will work overnight to establish containment lines in an effort to ring a fire at Ellerslie that ripped through more than 5000 hectares of private pine plantation this afternoon.
About 80 firefighters from the RFS, Hume Forests and Forestry NSW were joined by two fixed wing aircraft, stationed in Wagga, and a Forestry helicopter, from Tumut, in battling to slow the progress of the fire in hot and windy conditions.
Experienced fire-fighters said they had never seen fire-activity like it, describing flames some 40m high.
Ellerslie and Yaven Creek are home to some of the best known cattle and sheep farms in the region, but so far little pastoral land has been impacted.
The fire is burning to the north and north-west of Ellerslie Road and Yaven Creek Road, and is travelling in an easterly direction.
The fire was upgraded to emergency level for an hour as foreceful southerly winds fanned the blaze, and firefighters were moved back to focus solely on property protection, with two properties on Dunns Road near pine plantations under threat.
Fire authorities also had concerns for a further 15 properties.
But at 6.40pm the RFS downgraded the blaze to watch and act again, saying conditions were easing on the fireground.
About eight or so dozers are working to create a break around the blaze as fire-fighters undertake tactical backburning tonight, ahead of another hot day tomorrow, and even hotter weather thereafter.
Riverina Highlands RFS Fire Control Officer Jon Gregory said people needed to be alert as to the danger of fire – even those some distance from the blaze, such as the township of Adelong.
“I’ve seen embers travel 15km from a fire front,” Mr Gregory said. “Everyone needs to vigilant.
“It just takes some embers to land in someone’s gutter, full of dead grass, and that home is lost.
“Everyone should have a bushfire plan. I can’t emphasise that enough. It doesn’t matter if you live in town, or on a farm.
“Make a plan, and share it with your family.”
The cause of the fire is yet to be determined, but Mr Gregory said it was likely it began last night in a dry lightning strike.
While the region has a network of fire-towers, the current smoke haze coming from a range of fires across NSW makes it difficult to spot fires, he noted.
“That is a concern for us,” Mr Gregory said.