Lightning ignites fires


Four bushfires remain out of control this morning, burning uncontained in remote areas of the Tumut Shire.
A stifling 41-degree day turned to a horror night yesterday as fire fighters faced three separate blazes south east of Tumut, before waking up to a new fire on Mt Hovell.
Overnight National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) battled to control fires at Blowering and around Goobarragandra, with the help of the Riverina Highlands Rural Fire Service (RFS).
This morning a reconnaissance flight discovered an additional burn on Mt Hovell.
At this stage no properties are under threat, although RFS and NPWS warn locals to stay informed.
Despite overnight efforts of fire fighters and aircraft the blazes continue to burn this morning.
Four RFS trucks, a heavy plant dozer and eight NPWS vehicles were called to Blowering after yesterday’s cool change and lightning set the area alight.
RFS Zone Manager Trevor Reeves said RFS and NPWS crews were called to the initial three blazes at around 6pm after Tumut received a change in weather.
Tumut’s scorching temperatures and low rainfall contributed significantly to the fires’ outbreaks.
“We believe all three were caused by lightning,” Mr Reeves said.
“Yesterday was very hot and dry well into the night and the relative humidity didn’t come down a lot, it remained around 30 per cent. Fuel wasn’t moist, it didn’t rain enough to dampen that.”
Over 20 hectares of land near Blowering, 30 kms south of Tumut, went up in flames last night, with emergency services also called to fires near Goobarragandra at Ugly Creek and the Dinner Time Trail.
Due to their remote locations ground crews have been unable to safely attend the blazes at Ugly Creek or Dinner Time Trail, at this stage.
“It appears these two are at the head of the Goobarragandra Valley, they’re both remote fires and we’re working in conjunction with NPWS to look at getting remote area crews safely there,” Mr Reeves told The Times this morning, ahead of an RFS and NPWS meeting.
“Currently no one is on the ground, but we are having aircraft working overhead.”
NPWS Southern Ranges Regional Manager Mick Pettit said they are looking to make the two remote fires safe enough to winch in crews, including a specialist remote area crew out of Queanbeyan.
“It’s very remote areas and initially it was too unsafe to winch crews in, we need to knock the activity down as much as possible and insert crews later,” Mr Pettit said this morning.
The Blowering blaze remains the largest of the four active fires and poses unique challenges.
Crews were initially called to two separate fires to thw east of the dam located 500m apart, however as the night progressed the fires joined, creating over 20 hectares of burning land.
Mr Pettit said the fire’s position and size posed a challenge.
“The Blowering fire presents real challenges as its near the Country Energy line and the Transgrid 07 line. We have the issue of smoke and potential for arcing from the power line, it’s a particular safety and operational concern,” he said.
This morning the situation worsened when NPWS discovered another fire estimated to be 30m by 30m burning on Mt Hovell.
It is believed the fire has been burning since late yesterday, having been caused by the same lightning storm.
NPWS ground crews have been winched into the site and are being supported by two helicopter bucketing.
Another fly over will be performed later today to check for any other unreported fires.
RFS and NPWS are both optimistic the cool change Tumut is currently experiencing will help subdue the fires, but do not believe there is enough rain predicted to quench the blazes.
Mr Reeves said he is quietly confident the fires will be contained in a timely manner.
“I’m confident with the weather we’re having now we will be able to contain the blazes. Though nothing is a given. If we don’t get the change or if something else happens; the situation changes. It’s always unpredictable,” he said.
Mr Pettit said the weather has the potential to assist their efforts but RFS and NPWS have a few hard days ahead.
“We’re aiming to knock down the activity’s edge during the day, certainly the predicted weather would help,” Mr Pettit said.
“At the moment we’re hoping we get the predicted moisture but even if we do it won’t be enough, we’re going to be on the ground for the next few days.”
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