Weather offers respite, but fires continue to burn
Rainfall in New South Wales and Victoria brought relief over the weekend, but some communities were still under threat from out-of-control blazes. Photo: Getty
Rain is set to ease bushfire conditions and provide much-needed relief for NSW and Victorian fire crews who are focused on strengthening containment lines across active blazes.
Despite the respite, temperatures will hover about 30 degrees and winds are still gusting, meaning the danger lingers and the fires show no sign of relenting.
“These fires aren’t out and they’re not going to be out until they out themselves out or we finish with a really big rain event,” Premier Daniel Andrews told KIIS FM on Monday.
“And the weather bureau’s not telling us that’s likely.”
NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman Anthony Bradstreet said fire conditions are expected to ease on Monday and throughout the week with rain on the horizon.
“We would love rain everywhere,” he told said on Monday.
“Hopefully we will receive some good rainfall in fire affected areas.”
If this @BOM_NSW rainfall forecast comes to fruition then this will be all of our Christmas, birthday, engagement, anniversary, wedding and graduation presents rolled into one. Fingers crossed. #NSWRFS #nswfires pic.twitter.com/R9VfD0bqu2
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 12, 2020
Rain is forecast for pockets of the central and northern NSW coasts on Monday, with thunderstorms and showers forecast for most of the state on Thursday when up to 25mm is expected to fall on parts of the south coast.
Mr Bradstreet warned thunderstorms could create the risk of falling trees and landslips.
Crews will take advantage of the easing conditions to establish and strengthen containment lines on some 40 bushfires which are not yet contained, he added.
The RFS said 111 fires were still burning across the state on Sunday night and many will take some time to fully contain.
Air quality across much of the state including Sydney was very poor on Monday as a result of smoke from the bushfires.
Hazardous air quality was recorded in parts of Sydney’s northwest, southwest, the Illawarra, Albury and Wagga Wagga.
Firefighters on Sunday brought under control one of the county’s most damaging blazes – the Gospers Mountain fire, which has burned for two-and-a-half months northwest of Sydney.
“After lightning started the fire on October 26, it has burnt through more than 512,000 hectares across the Lithgow, Hawkesbury, Hunter Valley, Cudgegong, Blue Mountains and Central Coast local government areas,” the Hawkesbury RFS said on Facebook.
“It is important to remember not to be complacent as there are still a few months of the bushfire season to go with some bushland that still has not been burnt.”
In Victoria, fires at Abbeyard in the high country and at Tamboon in East Gippsland were both at emergency alerts early on Monday morning, but by 9am both had been downgraded.
This WATCH & ACT – BUSHFIRE message is being issued for Bemm River, Cann River, Furnell, Hilo Crossing, Noorinbee, Noorinbee North, Tamboon, Tamboon South, Tonghi Creek, Wingan River.
— CFA Updates (@CFA_Updates) January 12, 2020
Milder conditions are expected to last throughout the week, with rain developing in the state’s east on Wednesday and extending at least until Saturday.
There are 19 active fires across Victoria, including one at Corryong in the northeast which has merged with a fire in NSW at the weekend.
More than 1.3 million hectares has been burnt and 1500 fire fighters remain on the job.
While hundreds of properties and structures have been lost to the fires, so have the lives of four men.
Wonthaggi father of two Bill Slade, 60, was working at the edge of a fire at Angers Rest, near Omeo, when he was struck by a tree on Saturday, becoming the fourth death.
Mr Slade had worked on major fire incidents in the past including the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires.
“Bill was a much-loved colleague, friend and member of the Wonthaggi community. He’ll be sorely missed by Parks Victoria,” Parks Victoria chief Matt Jackson said.
He leaves behind his wife, Carol, and their children, Steph and Ethan.