In the hot seat: Fire focus shifts to  the North West

THE fire danger focus has shifted to the Northern Tablelands and North Western fire areas with severe fire danger today and high winds and hot temperatures expected over the weekend.

This came as police investigated several fires that authorities believe were deliberately lit.

While Rural Fire Service volunteers had room to breathe yesterday in the region with a slight easing of conditions, they are prepared for hotter days to come.

There is a statewide fire ban in place with no naked flames allowed in the open today.

North Western and the Northern Tablelands have severe fire danger  alerts today and the New England has a very high fire danger.

Tamworth Inspector Steve Prior said the strike teams that were visiting from the Northern Tablelands and the fFar North Coast left yesterday morning and we’d had no lightning strikes overnight.

With the slightly lower temperatures yesterday, the crews that were on standby at the station at the start of the week were stood down.

Increased temperatures and high winds are expected to return today, tomorrow  and Sunday, so crews may be stood up again.

The rapid aerial response team will return to Tamworth tomorrow and Sunday and will be based at the airport ready to respond to remote fires and other situations in which they may be required.

In the North West, there was a small fire in Mungindi caused by equipment use just before 11am, but it was quickly extinguished by the RFS and burned less than a hectare.

North Western Inspector Angela Daly said no one should be grinding or welding in these conditions.

“Conditions are deteriorating on Sunday so we have tried to rest up our crews and staff in preparation for the weekend,” she said.

“Hot temperatures and winds are picking up and we are planning for staff availability for that and we’ll be ready to go should anything happen.”

There will be aircraft on standby across the region and firefighters have their fingers crossed that there are no lightning storms.

Lightning is an issue for Northern Tablelands with a fire burning in remote bushland in the Donnybrook State Forest.

Crews are patrolling it and firefighters suspect it was caused by lightning strikes in the area on Wednesday night.

Northern Tablelands Inspector Konrad Sawczynski said today and over the weekend the RFS expected winds up to 40km/h with crews on active standby.

“Crews at Inverell stations will be ready to go because of a bit higher fire danger in that area,” he said.

“Volunteers are aware of the situation.”

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