Catastrophic conditions wreak havoc for firies

LOCAL fire crews were last night battling to control two large bushfires that had spiralled out of control near Wee Waa and Bellata.

Catastrophic conditions across the Narrabri and Moree areas only fuelled the fires – one which had developed a six-kilometre-long fire front.

The Berrygil Creek Rd fire east of the Bellata township raged out of control and a watch and act emergency warning was issued yesterday afternoon. 

RFS Inspector Brett Loughlin said conditions were worse than expected.

“We have catastrophic conditions here ... they are worse than what was initially forecast. This is obviously as bad as the weather gets,” he said.

While the weather wasn’t on their side, the RFS threw every resource at the fire.

“The conditions have deteriorated that bit further with a maximum temperature of around 47.5 degrees and humidity plummeted to 3 per cent,” Inspector Loughlin said.

Multiple water bombers, as well as a large number of trucks and volunteers, were deployed to the fire ground to try to stop the fire from spreading.

The blaze raged through grass land and enveloped paddocks.

“We’re trying to spear it to a fuel-reduced area,” Inspector Loughlin said.

No properties were under direct threat last night, with crews hoping for the wind to drop as the night rolled on.

It was one of three watch and act warnings issued for fires yesterday. A blaze raging in the Culgoora State Forest near Wee Waa was sparked yesterday afternoon with the RFS using multiple fixed-wing water bombers and ground crews to try and stop it spreading further out of control. The fire began moving towards the Australia Telescope facility late yesterday but crews were preparing to fight it from the air and on the ground if conditions got worse.

Meanwhile, just hours after landing in Tamworth, the ‘Gypsy Lady’ sky crane was deployed to attack a fast-moving grass fire near Tamworth yesterday afternoon. It’s still unknown what sparked the blaze which spread to nearby homes on Impala Estate at Warral.

Tamworth RFS Inspector Peter Roffe said crews didn’t take a chance.

“Given the conditions at the time, we certainly took a very proactive approach to attacking the fire. There was a significant number of dwellings in the area of the fire,” he said.

While the fire was quickly extinguished with the help of the air crane and two fixed-wing bombers, the RFS said it spiralled out of control very quickly.

“Any of our fires that broke out today, we were throwing maximum resources at given the conditions,” Inspector Roffe said.

“We were not allowing any fires to escape.”

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