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Fire could isolate Talbingo for days

This photo was taken 12 months ago, when Talbingo dealt with its last fire event. This time around, there may not be aerial help, and the fire threat is much worse.

About 150 residents packed Talbingo Country Club to hear the RFS and NSW Police warn of likely ember attacks and spot fires in the town tomorrow.

The hot, dry and windy forecast means the town is likely to come under ember attack. 

Brad Stewart, public liaison officer for RFS, couldn’t guarantee any outside support for Talbingo, with the likely scenario that Talbingo could become isolated for a number of days.

“With the forecast conditions, we expect that Talbingo will be landlocked with the highway blocked from either side,” Mr Stewart said. “With the roads closed, the smoke stopping air craft and other towns under threat in this and other regions, we will find it very hard to get any extra resources here.”

Stewart highlighted the ferocity of current fires engulfing the region, suggesting they dwarf major fires of the past. 

“We are seeing fires like never before, Mr Stewart said. “These fires make the 93/94, 2003 and the 1974 fires look like picnics; this is unprecedented for this region.”

The official NSW RFS today was for residents of Talbingo to leave the town now, and Mr Stewart said the safest place for residents to be was away from Talbingo, in Wagga.

At the meeting, Mr Stewart said Talbingo was a defendable community. 

“We have been assured the local brigade is in a good position to handle spot fires and we are of the understanding some private vehicles will be helping them as well,” he said.

John Scott, captain of the Talbingo brigade, highlighted the preparation his team had made for what is looming as a huge day for the town of 300. 

“We have three trucks, three private vehicles and 14 volunteers working on three shifts per day,” Mr Scott said. 

“We have run around town and assessed areas and made sure hydrants are clean and ready to be used.”

Mr Scott, who addressed the growing crowd at multiple times during the community meeting, is confident they can manage tomorrow’s volatile conditions but insisted that if residents do stay and they hear a siren, that means they must find a place to shelter immediately. 

“We are as ready as we can be and we have contingency plans in place,” Mr Scott said. 

“If you hear a siren, that means the proverbial has hit the fan and you need to find a place to shelter right away, we won’t be using sirens during the day.”

The RFS indicated a triage protocol would be implemented if houses do come under attack from embers, with houses that are salvageable taking priority, especially if multiple properties are on fire.

Also, with the possibility that power and phone service will be disrupted, residents have been asked to dial into UHF channel 40, so they can keep up to date on changing conditions.