Choppers flying in to help Kyogle

FOUR helicopters will start water-bombing today in the Kyogle area after a bushfire emergency was declared yesterday.

Meanwhile, a fire at Paddys Flat near Tabulam was burning out of control through almost 300ha of bushland late yesterday.

Police roadblocks were set up on Paddys Flat Road, which has been closed indefinitely between the Bruxner Highway at Tabulam and Tooloom, except for residents.

Five other major fires were burning in the Kyogle Shire yesterday at Doneden (14km north-west of Kyogle), Mt Lion (19km north of Kyogle), Bean Creek Road (10km south-east of Urbenville), Bean Creek (at the top of Mills Road) and Tunglebung (8km south-east of Bonalbo).

NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons declared an emergency at 10.30am yesterday, giving him the power to allocate extra resources to the Kyogle fires.

Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service manager Supt Michael Brett said the declaration would provide much-needed relief to local volunteers who had been working around the clock for more than a month.

A helicopter borrowed from the Tweed-Cabarita fire zone took to the skies yesterday to give more information for planning of containment lines.

“We are ramping up our Incident Management Team and can bring in special expertise,” Supt Brett said.

Two of the exhausted firefighters are Bungawalbin husband and wife team Brian and Diane Fellows. The couple has been fighting fires at Maclean, Brooms Head, Bungawalbin and at Narrabri for almost six weeks.

Mr Fellows is now on standby at the RFS headquarters at Yorklea, while Mrs Fellows has been busy feeding the volunteers in the Kyogle Shire.

“I was fighting fires at Narrabri and now I’ve got my catering cap on,” she said. “I’m making beef casserole for dinner. It’ll be for 38 with the shift change – 20 coming out and 18 going in.”

Supt Brett said more volunteers and equipment would be available from today. “We’re preparing for a worst-case scenario,” he said.

Supt Brett said a large number of timber plantations near the Paddys Flat fire were of particular concern. The fire is burning in State forests, but the plantations are close to the impact zone.

Forest Enterprises Australia, which owns 30,000ha of timber in the region, has about 20 employees and contractors protecting its plantations.

Plantation general manager Chris Barnes said they were praying for rain today. “We have containment lines in and there’s a slight chance of rain Friday, so we’re hoping for that,” he said.

Last night, nearly 100 bushfires were still raging in NSW, with 29 fires rated ‘uncontainable’.

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