Firies hold the line at Wondalga overnight

The scene at Wondalga yesterday evening, as the fire picked up in state forest.

Fire-fighters overnight managed to stop a raging fire coming out of the Greenhils State Forest at Wondalga, as they brace for far more difficult conditions on Saturday.

The fire ripped through pine and has now burned through to an area on the edge of farmland at Wondalga, just to the south-west of Adelong.

Wondalga RFS captain Shane Walsh held concerns throughout the day that fire burning to the south-west of Batlow would reach an area known as Coffee Pot in the state forest, and subsequently spit embers east towards Wondalga farmland.

That happened yesterday evening after smoke cleared – giving flames oxygen – and temperatures rose.

While the fire really got going once it reached the coffee pot zone,  Walsh said the burn could not have happened at a better time.

“It was obviously going to burn at some point, it was just a matter of when it was going to burn really,” Walsh said this morning. “It’s better it happened last night, than on Saturday.

“There were a couple of small spotovers, but we had two tankers there overnight, and between those and the forestry, we got some excellent containment lines in.

“We had pretty good plans in place, between us, forestry, some private blokes with dozers. We had fallback lines.”

Having got through the night, Walsh said the morning had brought still, cool conditions, with a lot of smoke.

“It’s quite eerie here this morning,” he said. “It’s burned down here quite nicely. There’s been some backburning on the other side at Darlow.

“Fingers crossed things don’t get nasty and we can get things tied up in preparation for Saturday.”

Temperatures are set to be over 40 degrees Saturday, and there are predictions of strong north-westerly winds, similar to the conditions that saw the fire increase ten-fold in size on Monday night at Tuesday.

Walsh is one of scores of volunteers who have been fighting fires since Saturday’s outbreak at Ellerslie.

While devoting his time to saving others’ property, he’s had to keep one eye on his own at Wondalga.

He’s been at Yaven Creek, spent a night door-knocking at Kunama to warn people of approaching fire as the blaze ripped through the Greenhills State Forest on Monday night, and was yesterday back south of Batlow.

“We spent all at the back of Kunama – and it was a bit wild there – then got called to Ardrossan Road (near Old Tumbarumba Road) yesterday where it got going out of the pine, and gradually worked our way back to Wondalga, and that was when things really hit the fan,” Walsh said. 

“I had to go home and get my own place in order at one stage. But we got through the night.”

Walsh said fatigue was an issue, but the volunteers were simply bearing the burden.

“You try to put it to the back of your mind,” he said. “You get home and your tired, adrenaline is still pumping. “Last night the fire’s essentially on my back doorstep, the RFS radio’s going, so you don’t really sleep.

“There are landholders who I’d say haven’t slept for two or three days.

“But you get up, and think to yourself that we’re one day closer to this being over.”

Walsh said some of the negativity people had expressed towards the fire-fighting effort was unfounded.

“We’re all volunteers sacrificing a lot,” he said.

“To hear people whingeing that they’re not getting this, or that, or not receiving enough information … we’re out there sacrificing our time, our effort and our lives.

“There’s private citizens chipping in with their own quick-sprays, slip ons and dozers – they’re not worried about being paid.

“Nobody’s seen fires like this before.

“If we didn’t have blokes that were as committed as they are, and who show a bit of care, I’ll tell you this fire would be out in private country by now.”

Walsh noted there had so far been no injuries or no loss of life from a blaze that stretched more than 100km in length, while property losses had so far been small in number compared to a number of other major fires burning.

“We must be doing something right.”