IF in doubt, get out – that’s the message to Snowy Valleys residents from Rural Fire Service public liaison officer Brad Stewart.
“If their home is threatened by fire, then I would strongly encourage people to have second thoughts about staying and defending in forested areas,” he said.
“Across the state we have had a number of deaths among people who have decided to stay and defend, so I would ask people to really think long and hard about it.
“You need 10,000 litres of water to defend a home. A garden hose will not do the job in these conditions. Don’t want until you see the fire before you make a decision, by which time it will be too late.
He urged everyone in the Tumut, Adelong, Batlow and Talbingo areas, regardless of whether they are on a farm or in town, to have a fire plan.
“It is absolutely critically important for everyone in the community to have a bushfire plan written or discussed, and clearly defined triggers so they know what to do should they be threatened by fire.”
It is a question of which agency isn’t involved in the effort to battle the blazes in the region.
Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue, Forestry Corporation, Police, Snowy Valleys Council, SES, VRA, Roads and Maritime and Snowy Hydro all have representatives at the Riverina Highlands RFS building in Tumut.
New Year’s Day is no holiday for any of them.
“We have 60 people in the building today and we had 20 on overnight,” Mr Stewart said.
There were well in excess of 30 fire trucks in the area, including those from local brigades and from Wagga, Junee, Lockhart, Deniliquin, Cootamundra and Gundagai.
Fire crews are working very hard to limit the spread of the fire but due to prolonged drought conditions and moisture deficit in forested areas, and the difficulties in getting access to the fire they have had to focus on life and property protection.
Mr Stewart has more important messages for people in the fire-affected area.
“We encourage motorists to put their headlights on and drive to the conditions,” he said.
“There will be significant firefighting resources on the road, including heavy plant (bulldozers etc).”
There were 13 such machines in the Riverina Highlands area on Monday.
“Farmers need to consider moving livestock to paddocks with the lowest fuel loads, and carers responsible for the elderly and frail need to consider their options. If you have family staying with you from out of the area they need to go.”
“Due consideration needs to be given to any activity in the open – we do not need any more fires,” Mr Stewart said.
Mr Stewart said there had been comparisons to the 1994 bushfires in around Sydney but the general consensus was that these fires were worse.
“The Green Valley fire travelled 25 kilometres overnight,” he said.
“These fires have had multiple pyrocumulonimbus developing.”
This is when the fire creates its own weather system. It is believed that a microburst from one of these systems caused the fire truck rollover that caused the death of a firefighter at Jingellic.
“Embers are starting more fires further out than in the past.”
Current road closures in the area include Batlow Road, Wondalaga Road between Greenhills Road and Broadleaf Park Road, Tooma Road from Tumbarumba to Tooma, Goat Ridge Road from Cabramurra to Paddys River, Lower Bago Road and Taradale Road and Link Road between the Snowy Mountains Highway and Goat Ridge Road.