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Sydney school evacuated as dangerous blaze closes in

Tara fires latest

Source: QFES

A primary school with about 200 pupils has been evacuated as a fast-moving grass fire threatened properties in Sydney’s west.

The NSW Rural Fire Service said a fire was burning about a kilometre from Orchard Hills Public School, near Penrith.

It was burning in a westerly direction towards the school about 2pm. Properties were also under threat and some lanes of the nearby M4 motorway were closed.

The RFS said about 3pm that firefighters had gained control of the blaze, but residents should continue to monitor conditions.

“Firefighters are gaining the upper hand of a grass fire burning in the vicinity of Castle Rd Fire, Orchard Hills,” it wrote on X.

Wednesday’s developments came as arsonists were blasted as “absolute nongs” after reports some of the fires that have claimed dozens of houses across Queensland and NSW were deliberately lit.

There was a flurry of other emergency warnings on Wednesday as more than 80 fires continued to burn across Queensland and 83 across NSW on Wednesday.

“Although the loss of property in these fires is significant, 387 homes have been saved,” Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“This is a tribute to our firefighters and the communities who continue to follow their directions.

“There is no doubt these combined efforts have saved lives.”

The deadly blaze at Tara, west of Brisbane, has so far destroyed 53 homes – four more than the Black Summer fires claimed across Queensland.

Across the border, in NSW, Rural Fire Service commissioner Rob Rogers said it was “remarkable” there had so far been no serious injuries or deaths in the spring bushfire crisis.

NSW’s area of main concern remains Tenterfield, which Rogers said was “literally surrounded by fires”.

He said there have been reports of homes being lost west of Tenterfield. Numerous farm animals have also been lost.

“It was not only individual fires, there were a number that joined together as well,” Rogers said.

“It was jumping roads and jumping rivers. I think it’s remarkable that we haven’t had any reports of serious injury or loss of life.

“It was as bad as it gets.”

  • See all updated warnings for Queensland here
  • And all current warnings for NSW are here
More homes lost to bushfire emergency

Back in Queensland, two homes have been destroyed by a bushfire at Goodwood, south of Bundaberg, that was deliberately lit.

“People have lost houses as a result of someone lighting a fire,” Inspector Grant Marcus said.

“People have lost sheds and machinery, schools have had to be evacuated.

“We’ve got a lot of cost and damage to our community.”

Residents evacuated from the Goodwood fire zone were told on Wednesday it was still not safe to return.

Police are also investigating a series of suspicious fires in the Gold Coast hinterland on Tuesday. Initial investigations indicate they were deliberately lit.

Federal Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt blasted arsonists, who were putting people in danger.

“It is so unfortunate that every fire season we see absolute nongs going around deliberately lighting fires that put other people at risk, of course if these people are caught they will be charged,” he said.

Elsewhere, reinforcements from Victoria and New Zealand were expected to arrive in Queensland today to provide welcome relief for fatigued crews.

Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh said it was timely support for crews fighting the Tara blaze. He expected interstate reinforcements would also help the Southern Downs border towns where fires are forcing people to flee their homes.

People at Dalveen, The Glen, Silverwood and Cherry Gully were told to leave immediately on Wednesday.

Nearby Southern Downs towns Rosenthal Heights and Morgan Park were told to prepare to evacuate.

The warnings came after Queensland and NSW firefighters joined forces to save border town Wallangarra late on Tuesday where four homes were destroyed.

Overall more than 1000 firefighters battled about 80 fires across Queensland on Tuesday.

“It will go on record as having burnt the most number of homes across Queensland in any one fire – it is a real tragedy,” McVeigh said.

He marvelled at how crews scrambled to help save Wallangarra on Tuesday.

“Waterbombers that were aiding the fire here took off in a big hurry,” he said.

“I spoke to the mayor over there. The fire at Wallangarra, there were four homes lost – the fire was in town.

“It was absolutely critical that fire defences went there.”

About 50 Wallangarra residents evacuated across the border to Tenterfield were expected to return on Wednesday.

“My heart goes out to those people who have lost their properties. But we didn’t lose any people – that’s our primary concern,” Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi told ABC TV.

QFES Deputy Commissioner Mike Wassing said the Dalveen and the Wallangarra fires would be the focus of firefighting efforts in coming days.

McVeigh said the Tara fire was still not contained, with a warning current for nearby Kogan residents to prepare to evacuate.

A cool change was expected after firefighters endured extreme conditions on Tuesday with wind gusts of up to 50km/h and 37-degree heat.

However, firefighters have been told it may be days before they get a reprieve, with storms predicted later this week threatening more blazes from lightning strikes.

-with AAP

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