Bushfire emergencies unfolding on Sydney’s outskirts amid severe fire danger

A Tinonee resident helps to fight spot and grass fires in the Hillville area near Taree, New South Wales, on Nov 13, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SYDNEY, Dec 5, 2019, The Sydney Morning Herald. Firefighters are battling two bushfire emergencies unfolding on the outskirts of Sydney on Thursday, with residents in parts of the Hawkesbury and south-west of Warragamba Dam told it’s time to evacuate if they aren’t staying to defend their homes, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Green Wattle Creek fire burning in the Wollondilly area, south-west of Warragamba, has crossed Lake Burragorang and is quickly spreading east towards Nattai and Oakdale. Residents in Nattai are advised to seek shelter as the fire approaches.

On the southern flank of the massive 232,000-hectare Gospers Mountain blaze, residents in Colo Heights and Upper Colo are being told to evacuate now towards Wilberforce if they aren’t staying to fight the fire, while those in Boree and Wallabadah are advised that leaving early is their safest option.

Greater Sydney is among nine NSW regions subject to total fire bans on Thursday amid fears many more homes could come under threat from multiple bushfires burning under “severe” fire danger conditions.

With about 100 fires burning across the state on Thursday, firefighters have multiple major areas of concern where homes are predicted to come under threat amid rising temperatures and strong, gusty westerly winds.

Those areas include the Currowan fire burning north of Batemans Bay on the South Coast; the fires near Warragamba Dam; the Gospers Mountain fire and the Three Mile fire east of that, which is pushing towards the Central Coast; and a cluster of fires burning in the Hunter region.

Poor to hazardous air quality continues to affect Sydney on Thursday as a result of the fires burning in regions to the city’s north, west and south.

The Currowan fire and Three Mile fire are both burning at “watch and act” level, as are the Paddock Run, Little L and Wrights Creek fires in the Hunter and Central Coast areas, the Martins Creek Road fire at Paterson north of Newcastle, and the Carrai East fire near Kempsey on the Mid North Coast.

A spokeswoman for the Rural Fire Service said firefighters are concerned that as weather conditions deteriorate, a cluster of fires burning around the Hunter in “remote, rugged terrain which is difficult for firefighters”, could join into a mega-fire.

The Rural Fire Service is predicting the Three Mile fire burning in the Yengo and Dharug national parks, west of Gosford, will spread east on Thursday and may impact on areas between Kulnura and Greengrove. Residents in those areas have been told to leave early if they are not prepared to stay and defend their homes.

The RFS also suggests the Gospers Mountain blaze is likely to merge with the Little L fire burning to its north-west.

Meanwhile on the South Coast, residents on the northern side of Batemans Bay were urged to leave by 9am on Thursday if they weren’t fully prepared to defend their properties.

The Currowan fire, which has burnt through more than 53,000 hectares in the Bimberamala and Murramarang national parks and resulted in the closure of the Princes Highway since Sunday, has been predicted to reach the outskirts of Batemans Bay by late afternoon.

Residents in Kioloa, Bawley Point, Pretty Beach, Pebbly Beach, Depot Beach, Durras North, Termeil, Flat Rock and South Durras have already been advised to seek shelter as the fire approaches as it is too late to leave. Reports of property losses in those areas remain unconfirmed.

Firefighters in Queensland and Western Australia are also facing threats amid severe fire conditions on Thursday.

Queensland fire crews are still battling a large bushfire on the Darling Downs, with fears some properties have been lost; in Perth, an emergency alert has been downgraded to a watch and act for a bushfire that is burning in the city’s north-eastern fringe.

Jenny Noyes is a journalist at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a writer and editor at Daily Life.

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