THE region’s Rural Fire Service brigades remain on high alert with soaring temperatures and hot winds sweeping across the area as the North West continues to swelter in a heatwave now into its 10th day of the new year.
For nine days, the centres of Tamworth, Narrabri and Moree have all recorded maximum temperatures of more than degrees Celsius, and in some cases over 40 degrees.
For two out of three of the northern regions, a total fire ban has been invoked for the third day in a row.
The New England region had a severe fire danger yesterday and has
a high fire danger today, with the total fire ban lifted. Northern Slopes and the North West also had a severe danger yesterday and a very high fire danger today with the total fire ban remaining in place.
Tamworth RFS Inspector Steve Prior said given that all permits were suspended until Monday, anyone who saw smoke anywhere needed to report it immediately on triple-zero to ensure fire crews could get to any fires early.
“Don’t think that someone else has already reported it,” he said.
“Early reports give us a chance to get to things early before they spread.”
Due to the terrible weather conditions in the Tamworth area yesterday, additional firefighters dropped in.
Tamworth welcomed two strike teams to the city from the Northern Tablelands and the Far North Coast and Northern Rivers who stayed overnight to lend a hand if needed.
They were on their way back to their home depots from assisting in the Dubbo area and included 10 trucks and about 50 crew members. The strike teams returned home this morning.
Inspector Prior said the extra firefighters and a visiting water bombing helicopter and rapid aerial response team meant that the region had extra capabilities we didn’t normally have.
“This is all due to the increase in temperatures and the wind is a big problem,” he said.
“The wind makes it extremely challenging for the crews if
anything gets started.”
Yesterday they expected winds gusting up to 60-70km/h and averaging 35-50km/h from the north and north-west and, in the afternoon, from the south to south-west.
Liverpool Range zone manager Inspector Andrew Luke said they were nervous about conditions yesterday, butdidn’t have any incidents. He said it was great to have everyone abide by the rules and make sure everyone else did too.
“If everyone abides by the rules and is cautious, we shouldn’t have any problems,” he said.
“We are on standby to support other areas as required and have aviation resources at our disposal. Where the air support ends up is where the need is greatest.”
The New England region had crews on standby at stations and an aircraft was on standby at Armidale Airport to assist if needed.
“We are on a heightened alert,” he said.
“Hopefully we have no deliberate ignitions because the wind is an issue.”