Fire threat ramps up again today

An RFS air-tanker drops fire retardant in the Tumut Common area yesterday.

The Rural Fire Service is warning residents in the Argalong and Goobarragandra Valley area to prepare for a potentially fierce day today (Friday) as the Dunns Road Fire continues to burn out of control.

The RFS says there are fire risks to rural communities to the south-east of Tumut, particularly to areas west of Brindabella Valley Road and south of Argalong.

For those who are concerned about the fire danger, the RFS’ message is clear: leave early and head to Tumut or Wagga.

The Dunns Road fire was started by lightning on December 28 and has already burned across more than 337,000 hectares.

The RFS says the fire’s perimeter is in excess of 600 kilometres and is burning on multiple fronts, with possible threats to the Goobarragandra Valley. If the fire does burn through that area, it then poses a further threat towards Brindabella.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting temperatures on Friday will reach 43 degrees, with low humidity and north-westerly winds averaging 43 kph.

Over the past four days, as weather conditions eased temporarily, the RFS focused on halting the fire’s eastern progress, with multiple redundancies built-in, using local tracks and roads to form layered lines of containment.

Back burning operations were also underway on the fire’s northern edge, in the Ellerslie region, within the existing containment lines.

At Tumut, control lines have been established near the railway and over to the Tumut State Conservation Area, down through Gilmore and tied off into Blowering Dam. Large air tankers were flown in yesterday to help shore up containment lines in the area.

RFS Public Liaison Officer Bradley Stewart says resources are limited and fully committed across the state. Landholders, especially in the Goobarragandra region, need to be prepared.

“We can’t have a fire truck at every house,” Mr Stewart told a crowded community meeting at the Lamalac Soldiers Memorial Hall on Wednesday evening. More than 120 residents filled the hall, while others listened from outside. Stewart stressed that anyone who was considering evacuating should leave now.

“The risk to the community is there,” said Mr Stewart.

“I don’t believe it’s as bad as in some other communities where I’ve had conversations recently, but don’t feel like you have to stay, especially if you aren’t prepared to defend your property or you have carer’s duties for someone who is elderly, young, or disabled.”

During the worst of the fires which passed through Batlow and Tumbarumba last week, Mr Stewart said the populations of those two towns were reduced to just 60 people and 160 people, respectively.

Mr Stewart said there are still small fires which are reigniting in those townships, and residents who have returned home must stay aware of their surroundings even after the fire front passes.

The RFS says their first priority is to protect lives, their second is to save homes, and their third priority is to protect the pine plantations in the Bondo State Forest.

To halt the fire’s spread, containment lines are being dug through the region, with back burning operations already underway and small, controlled burns planned for the Goobarrangandra area after the peak weather passes on Friday. Mr Stewart says containment lines are essential to keep fire out of the forestry planation, but there was likely to be fire right up to those lines at some point.

Fire containment plans were complicated on Wednesday morning with a new fire, started by lighting, close to the eastern edge of the Dunns Road fire. Mr Stewart said there’s no reason to throw money or resources at that fire, named the ‘Peak Fire,’ when it is consumed by the larger fire within the next few days, but it did shorten their window for putting containment lines around the larger fire.

One hundred and twenty pieces of heavy plant equipment have already been mobilised for the Snowy Valleys firefights, with more bulldozers and graders than fire trucks working to contain the blaze.

“I have never been to a fire with so many pieces of heavy plant,” Mr Stewart told the crowd in Lacmalac.

Homeowners are asked to plan ahead and prepare well. Stewart asked residents to leave notes, letting the RFS know where they can find water, where gas bottles might be located and where family members will be located.

It’s also crucial that any combustible materials are cleared away from homes, including furniture and toys.

“This is not going away until we get some substantial rain or we get a box around the outside of it and just let it burn inside that box.”

If the fire does escape from the RFS on Friday, Mr Stewart said they’ll be pushing emergency alerts into affected communities. Those alerts will come via mobile phones, landlines and radio. He urged landholders to stay informed, making sure they have some way to receive those messages, even in areas with limited radio or mobile phone reception.

“You need to check,” said Mr Stewart. “You need to take that responsibility.”

Further south, residents Mundaroo, Ournie, Mannus, Tooma and surrounding areas are also on alert. The RFS advised that if you are in the area south of Tumbarumba to Khancoban, and west of the Kosciuszko National Park, you should leave earl, and not to be in the path of these fires.

The official RFS advice, as of 10.10pm last night:

Goobragandra Valley and Brindebella areas

•          If you are in these areas, particularly south of Argalong, and west of the Brindabella Valley Road, you should leave early. Do not be in the path of this fire.

•          Monitor the conditions and know what you will do if the fire threatens.

Mundaroo, Ournie, Mannus, Tooma and surrounding areas

•          If you are in the area south of Tumbarumba to Khancoban, and west of the Kosciuszko National Park, you should leave early. Do not be in the path of these fires.

•          There are multiple fires burning in the area including the Green Valley, Talmalmo fire and the East Ournie Creek fire. These fires may merge.

•          Monitor the conditions and know what you will do if the fire threatens.

Talbingo, Wondalga, Kunama, Batlow and surrounding areas

•          Fire has passed through this area.

•          There are may still be active fire and unburnt areas.

•          Monitor the conditions and know what you will do if the fire threatens.

•          Be alert for falling trees and branches.

•          Be alert for hazards around burnt properties. Do not enter until advised that it is safe to do so.

Ellerslie, Adelong, Rosewood, Tumbarumba and surrounds and Tumut

•          Monitor the conditions and know what you will do if the fire threatens.

•          Be alert for embers and spot fires.

•          Be alert for hazards around burnt properties. Do not enter until advised that it is safe to do so.