A WORRYING wind shift from the south to the south-east with accompanying 60km/h wind gusts around 4pm yesterday had fire fighters on high alert in their fight against a huge fire in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park.
The fire, now named the Macleay River Fire after two huge, separate out-of-control bushfires merged on Sunday, had burnt out 28,733 hectares,
Inspector Brett Loughlin, public liaison officer for Armidale S44 with the NSW Rural Fire Service, said.
Mr Loughlin was expecting the fire to burn out more land.
“We’re doing some mapping now and expect it to be around that 30,000-hectare mark,” he said.
He said 52 firefighters were on the ground creating firebreaks, doing backburning and helping protect the property of landholders living within a few kilometres of the fire front.
“There are properties in close proximity,” Mr Loughlin said.
“The fire has flared up a little this afternoon and some embers are falling around properties in the Lower Creek area.
“No property is under threat at the moment ... the fire’s not doing anything like it was doing on Saturday (when it was out of control).”
Five helicopters were water bombing the Macleay River Fire.
An RFS spokeswoman said the fire was moving into the Comara, Lower Creek and Five-Day Creek areas.
“It is still being heavily resourced with 52 firefighters in 29 units being supported by four aircraft and four bulldozers,” the spokeswoman said.
“Whilst the cooler conditions are expected to last for a couple of more days, the fire still poses a threat to properties in the Lower Creek and Comara areas.”
Rain late Sunday was “pretty negligible” in helping stem the fire, Mr Loughlin said.
The fire, in gorge country, was not easy to access.
“It’s very steep and rough and there are some spots the fire fighters can’t get to,” Mr Loughlin said.
The Armidale-Kempsey Rd is still closed at Lower Creek.
“There are some fallen trees and rocks at that point and (fire) trucks going up,” Mr Loughlin said.
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park is still shut to the public.
Fire permits are still suspended in the New England RFS zone.
In the Liverpool Range RFS zone, spokesman Andrew Luke said they were being cautious.
“For the remainder of the week, it’s going to be suspended if the fire danger goes very high or above,” Mr Luke said.
For this week in the Tamworth RFS zone, Inspector Steve Prior said people should check the fire danger ratings with the fire control centre on
6762 7641 to see whether they were allowed to light a fire – even if they had a permit.
The fire at Ebor which burnt out five hectares had been extinguished, Mr Loughlin said, but the fire at Mt Mulligan/Wards Mistake, near Guyra, had “flared up” and had now burnt out 600 hectares – almost a doubling of area within 24 hours (340 hectares on Sunday).
“It will probably get a little bigger due to backburning operations,” Mr Loughlin said.
The fire called Panhandle near Walcha in the Enfield State Forest which has burnt out five hectares was “in patrol” – well under control and contained,” he said.