THE region’s exhausted fire crews have been relieved from the rugged fireground as several bushfires continue to burn.
The NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) has made an emergency Section 44 declaration meaning extra resources are on hand to battle every bushfire that breaks out in the Tamworth and Uralla local government areas.
It meant after three days of firefighting, tired crews were able to stand down on Tuesday morning from the Bonnay fire, near Barraba and Bundarra, as it reached 11,500 hectares in size.
RFS Superintendent Tim Butcher told The Leader five aircraft attacked the fire from above on Tuesday while crews backburned on the ground to strengthen containment lines, which run more than 100km around the fire.
“Crews today have flown in from the south and west of the state including Dubbo and Orange and have flown in and jumped straight on the trucks in a hot change and driven straight onto the fireground,” he said.
The crews that have been on the fire for the last three days have gone home.- RFS Superintendent Tim Butcher
“The crews that have been on the fire for the last three days have gone home.”
Superintendent Butcher said more than 100 firefighters are working to control several blazes but the Bonnay fire was the biggest, and there had been no property or stock losses.
The dry heat was better for firefighters but “has made the fire behaviour worse”, meaning crews have been on the frontline 24/7 since the blaze broke out last week.
“That’s been down to the proactive use of heavy plant machinery, from volunteer firefighters on the ground, to the aircraft that have dropped retardant to make those break lines and landholders working with crews,” he said.
That’s been down to the proactive use of heavy plant machinery, from volunteer firefighters on the ground, to the aircraft that have dropped retardant to make those break lines and landholders working with crews.- RFS Superintendent Tim Butcher
He said the primary concern of the blaze was the southern part near Woodsreef and the top of part of Ironbark Nature Reserve with crews fighting to stop it entering the forest.
The Eureka fire near Yarrowyck was almost 400 hectares in size on Thursday afternoon and was being patrolled after it was brought under control, while lightning strikes sparked two fires near Tamworth on Monday night.
“The two fires at Limbri, we’re currently using two fixed-wing bombers and a helicopter to suppress the running of the fires and crews on the ground, so while they’re pretty small we’ll try and hit them to stop them from spreading,” Superintendent Butcher said.
“The main threat for that fire is if it escapes into the Nundle Pine Forest and the risk if if it enters that plantation that is tens of millions of dollars from the Forestry Corporation under threat and there’s also landholders and properties and livelihoods under threat,” Superintendent Butcher said.
”The winds are changing directions adding to the complexity of the firefighting effort so it’s going to be a large and complex fire to bring it under control.”
On Tuesday, Forestry crews were working on the western side to strengthen the lines, and four bullzdozers were adding to the efforts to stop the fire from spreading into the Tuggolo Forest.
Following several days, the Newell Highway was also re-opened to traffic with an 80km/h speed limit in force as fire crews patrolled the area.
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