The devastating Dunns Road Fire created two-pyro-cumulonimbus cells, at Tumbarumba and Batlow, today, producing wildly erratic fire-behaviour for fire-fighters to combat, RFS Riverina Highlands chief Jon Gregory said.
The fire is at watch and act alert level. It ripped through 54,000 hectares of pine, bushland and farmland, with the blaze increasing more than 10-fold since entering the Greenhills State Forest late last night.
About 200 firefighters will spend New Years Eve facing yet more challenging conditions overnight on the Dunns Road Fire near Batlow.
Fire-fighters have been able to keep the blaze out of towns including Tumbarumba this morning, then Batlow this evening.
There have been unconfirmed property losses at Tumbarumba earlier in the day, then around Kunama this afternoon, with the blaze moving into an area to the south of Batlow.
The emergency warning for the apple town was triggered when the fire crossed Batlow Road at Kunama.
“Conditions have eased a bit since we issued the emergency warning for Batlow this afternoon, but the winds are still strong up there and will continue through the night,” Mr Gregory said. “Crews have done an excellent job around Batlow this afternoon.
“It won’t be an easy night.”
An RFS headquarters fire behaviour analyst informed local authorities that there were two pyro-cumulonimbus cells formed today, as the fire created its own weather system.
“Some of the fire behaviour today basically rewrote the text books in terms of what occurred,” Mr Gregory said.
“Our fire-fighters’ good work has kept the losses to an absolute minimum.
“There have been losses, and I appreciate the impact that has, but it could have been significantly worse.’
Several houses in the Union Jack area of Tumbarumba are believed to have been lost, along with property losses at Kunama.
Pressure tonight would likely be on the eastern edge of the fire front.
Mr Gregory said a decision to issue an emergency warning for Talbingo, and to remove campers from Blowering, was a precautionary measure, but a necessary one.
Mr Gregory said firefighters would contend with wind and reasonably low humidity levels tonight, but those conditions would unlikely be as severe as last night, when the blaze went on a long run south after it broke containment lines at Yaven Creek and entered pine plantation.
Tomorrow offers better conditions.
“Tomorrow will be a consolidation day, when hopefully we have a look at what we’ve got, and can deal with it proactively.
“Today, we were very much in a reactive phase.
“It’s not over yet.”