Bungawalbin residents on fire alert

SEVERAL homes at Bungawalbin Creek, west of Woodburn, were being closely monitored last night as firefighters struggled to control a large bushfire.

It is believed the fire was deliberately lit.

The blaze has already burned more than 100ha of bushland in the Bungawalbin National Park, and firefighters said the situation was worsening.

Last night the fire was still about 2km from the nearest home, but residents have been put on high alert.

Rural Fire Service Superintendent Rodney Brown said temperatures in the high 30s and strong winds had made backburning difficult.

He said the bushfire could easily get out of control.

“On Saturday it was too intense for us to do much,” he said.

“It’s still very hot and quite volatile.

“We need to backburn about 13km around the fire, but backburning initself can cause trouble.”

Yesterday afternoon a fixed-wing aircraft was used to drop 3000 litres of water on the bushfire.

Supt Brown said the fire was moving in a south-east direction, towards the homes, but he said crews were confident the homes were not in any danger.

“We’ve talked to the residents so that they are aware of what is happening,” he said.

“But there is a fair bit of opencountry between the bushland and the homes, so that should protect them.”

At this stage, the fire is being treated as suspicious because there is no evidence that it was a lightning strike, Supt Brown said.

“It started in a very isolated part of the national park, near some trails,” he said.

“Unfortunately, there have been some maliciously-lit fires in that area over the past couple of months.

“We’ve had 30-35 people on the ground trying to control this fire, and they are all on fire trails.

“These firefighters are putting themselves at risk to fight something which should never have happened in the first place.”

Extreme weather conditions will continue until at least tomorrow, with the temperature predicted to reach 34C today.

Firefighters could again be forced to abandon their backburning.

“If that happens, we won’t be able to do much until Tuesday, and by then we will be dealing with a much larger fire,” Supt Brown said.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for some rain and cooler temperatures.

“We really need to contain this fire. It’s at a critical stage.”

NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons yesterday imposed a total fire ban on the Far North Coast.

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