The NSW Rural Fire Service has upgraded three fires burning in the Snowy Valleys LGA to ‘Watch and Act’ level as high temperatures, low humidity and dangerous winds stir up existing fires and potentially cause new ignitions. As of noon Friday, the fire danger rating was set at “extreme.”
The dangerous fire weather in the Snowy Valleys is expected to peak between 3 and 6pm today (Friday, January 10), with concern for populated areas focused around the Goobarragandra Valley.
After a relatively “sedate” night on Thursday night, the NSW Rural Fire Service says there will be “a lot of activity” on Friday, especially near the Goobarragandra and near Bogong Peak, inside the Kosciuszko National Park, just east of Talbingo.
There have also been reports of hot spots flaring up in the northern area of the Ellerslie Range, which RFS Public Liaison Officer Bradley Stewart says are hard to reach.
“Crews are doing what they can out there to control those, but it’s difficult terrain,” said Stewart on Friday morning.
With temperatures forecasted to reach 43 degrees on Friday and winds speeds up to 50kph, with gusts up to 90kph. A ‘Damaging Winds’ warning has been issued for the Riverina, Southwest Slopes and Snowy Mountains, with a “vigorous cold front” affecting southern New South Wales this afternoon and evening. The State Emergency Service is asking people to move vehicles under cover and away from trees and secure loose items on properties.
Stewart says the weather will result in “erratic” fire behaviour.
“There will be runs today. There’s no doubt about that,” said Stewart, “It’s just a question of where.”
The RFS is asking people who live in the Goobarragandra Valley, south of Argalong and west of the Brindabella Valley Road to leave early if they aren’t fully prepared to stay and defend their homes.
Crews today will be reacting to fire activity, rather than trying to contain the existing blaze. Stewart said the weather conditions are too difficult for the RFS to work on containment lines, and they are poised to respond to areas where the fire may break existing containment lines.
Goobarragandra Valley residents were warned about the coming danger during a Wednesday evening meeting, held at the Lacmalac Soldiers Memorial Hall.
“If you plan to leave, or you aren’t prepared to defend your home, leaving early is the best option,” said Stewart. That includes residents in the Goobarragandra and residents who are still in Talbingo.
Margaret Buckley, a Goobarragandra resident, has had her belongings packed for several days and said the car was ready to go Friday morning.
“We’re not planning on leaving ridiculously early,” said Mrs Buckley, “But we’re not going to do anything silly, either.”
Margaret’s husband, Lindsay, was out tending to stock, making sure the sheep and cattle were in the safest possible areas and well watered.
With no internet and limited radio reception, Margaret said she has been relying on the television for her updates, but there’s little information on TV about the local area.
Mrs Buckley said she’s staying ready and alert.
“We don’t want to put people’s lives at risk to come and save us,” said Mrs Buckley.
For the Buckleys it’s been difficult to know what to do at times. Last week, they brought the sheep for the worst of the fire threat, then let them out again, and then bringing them in again on Friday. Planes flew overhead on Thursday afternoon, dropping retardant to protect the nearby pines.
Once the worst of the fire weather passes on Friday, the RFS is planning on conducting back burning in the Goobarragandra and Lacmalac areas, but that will all depend on the weather and the fire’s progress.
A new fire was ignited by lighting in the region’s northeast on Wednesday and another was started early Friday in the Tooma Valley. Small fires continue to reignite in areas like Batlow as the heat and winds stir up hidden hot spots.
Stewart is urging locals to prepare for the long haul and continue checking for updates via social media, the RFS website and the ‘Fires Near Me’ app.