Anxious night in Nimmitabel as evacuees wait 

Pointing into the wall of smoke bearing down on Kybeyan Road, Rhonda McCarthy tried to locate her home of 30 years.

''Those pines are just two kilometres from home,'' she said. ''If it gets into those pines, it'll be another Canberra. It'll explode.'' She and her husband, Chris, were among those forced out of their homes near Nimmitabel as the fire front edged nearer. None of them knew if their homes would survive the night.

Emergency services doorknocked the road earlier in the day, warning residents to relocate as the three-day-old fire spread into the valley.

Many gathered at a property further down the road, bringing work dogs and four wheel motorbikes strapped to the back of utes.

Apart from two dogs, everything Mrs McCarthy and her husband own was left behind. ''We were going to stay,'' she said. ''We got a few calls this morning, saying to evacuate but we ignored them. But it was getting closer and closer. We thought it was safer to leave.'' Fire crews and locals were carrying water and digging containment lines but Mrs McCarthy said many residents had to rely on luck and weather.

''All of us are in the same boat at the moment,'' she said. ''We've all got homes and stock. But there's not much you can do, is there?''

Further down Kybeyan Road, emergency services and residents had also gathered as nearby properties were overwhelmed by smoke.

Peter Williamson was among them, having left a nearby farm with only his dogs and a few changes of clothes. He has no idea if his new home will escape the blaze, or when he'll be allowed back on the property to check.

''I'm just waiting for someone to tell me I can go back,'' he said. ''We're hoping it will go right past but by the look of it, you just don't know.''

Residents along Mount Forest Road have either left their homes or fled to safer ground as fire tears through nearby properties. The call to evacuate came at 3am on Tuesday, though some residents on about a dozen properties chose to stay and defend their homes. The fire has been burning since Sunday, according to ''Mount Forest'' owner Julie Huggett.

While Mrs Huggett left for the so-called safe house at 28 Mount Forest Road, her husband stayed behind to try to save their home. ''He's driving one of the graders, trying to put in containment lines to stop the fires,'' she said. ''The property's been in the family for 100 years.'' Some homes could still be seen standing at midday but Mrs Huggett said saving her home - one of the furthest on the road - was ''up to the mercy of the gods''. Neighbour Lorraine Galvin said she also feared for her home, although it was deemed relatively safe.

''It could still jump and come this way,'' she said. ''You just don't know.''

Canberra Times

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