Unseasonal spate of fires
VOLUNTEER firefighters have been run ragged fighting over 20 fires dotted around the Northern Rivers. Seven fires were still burning at noon yesterday with NSW Rural Fire Brigade spokesman Daniel Ainsworth saying as soon as one fire is extinguished another one starts. From Toonumba in the north, to Ellangowan and Woodburn in the south, 108 firefighters have been battling fires around the clock. "It's been busy for the past two weeks but it all came to a head on the weekend," said Mr Ainsworth, the brigade's community safety officer. "The volunteers have been going out every day. On the weekend they were going from one fire to another and getting tired and it's only early in the season." Mr Ainsworth said a combination of recent frosts and dry weather had made conditions perfect for fire outbreaks. "Most of the fires were started by land owners burning off and the fire then getting out of control," he said. "There were a few fires of unknown origin which are now being investigated. "The burning off season is usually in August and September but the dry conditions have come a month early. "So while we are not surprised at the number of fires we are surprised at the time of year." The worst fire was in the Hogarth Range Nature Reserve where 150 hectares of bushland was burnt out. "Containment lines are in and crews will also back burn," Mr Ainsworth said. "A helicopter is on standby for mapping and water bombing if required." RFS superintendent Boyd Townsend said due to the conditions the official bush fire danger period had been brought forward. "Fire management authorities have been left with no choice than to start the bush fire danger period on Wednesday, August 1," he said. "Anyone wishing to light a fire in the open must have a fire permit from the local authority and failure to have a permit can lead to severe penalties." Fire permits can be obtained from your local town fire brigade or rural fire service. !n For more information check out the website on www.bushfire.nsw.gov.au!