Narrow escape from fire crisis

Source: Daily Advertiser

The immediate threat may have passed yesterday but firefighters are still concerned about a large grass fire burning near Oura, in southern NSW.

The blaze, which picked up about 11am yesterday on a property named “Valema” near the township, menaced Oura for much of the day.

It is believed the fire was started by lightning strikes on Saturday evening before being fanned by yesterday’s high winds.

Police were forced to issue an evacuation order mid-afternoon as conditions began to rapidly deteriorate.

An emergency warning was declared for the township and surrounding properties and residents received an automated emergency telephone warning informing them of the impending danger.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes at about 5.30pm yesterday as the emergency warning was lifted and conditions had eased, with firefighters able to begin containing the blaze after winds died down.

More than 140 RFS volunteers worked to tackle the blaze, which burnt close to 900 hectares, aided by six aircraft, including the Skycrane helicopter Malcolm.

Blustery conditions throughout the day hampered firefighters trying to contain the blaze, with the firefront changing direction with each frequent wind change.

But the threat is far from over, with the fire still burning strongly within containment lines and Wagga set for its most dangerous fire day in years today.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) Riverina zone manager Roger Orr said he was hopeful the blaze would remain within containment lines but was concerned about the impending dangerous weather.

“(The weather) is certainly going to put pressure on our containment lines on the eastern side and crews will be working overnight to strengthen those lines and fell any smoking trees,” he said.

“I’m hopeful that the work that’s done overnight won’t lead to any further fire spread.

“But these are some of the worst conditions we’ve seen for many years and we need to be prepared should those containment lines be broken tomorrow.”

Today’s weather will see temperatures of 41 degrees coupled with wind gusts of up to 70km/h from the north-west, tending westerly later in the day, brewing a cocktail of severe fire danger.

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