The Newell Highway has re-opened to traffic in both directions between Coonabarabran and Narrabri following the road’s closure due a bush fire in the Pilliga State Forest.
The highway was closed from Thursday and was progressively re-opened from 12.30pm on Tuesday.
During the closure, the highway was used extensively by emergency services to land firefighting helicopters and access local roads.
The #Newell Highway has reopened between #Coonabarabran and #Narrabri after being closed for a bushfire in the #Pilliga. The diversion via the Oxley and Kamilaroi highways has been lifted. The RMS says an 80km/h speed limit is in place as firefighters remain in the area working— Northern DailyLeader (@The_NDL) January 23, 2018
A Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) spokesperson said the highway had been monitored throughout its closure.
Following an inspection at 11.45am on Tuesday, and in consultation with emergency services, the highway was cleared to reopen.
“The Newell Highway is now safe for motorists to use, as the fire through the Pilliga Forest moved from the vicinity of the road and is currently not a safety hazard,” the spokesperson said.
“Roads and Maritime Services strongly advises motorists returning to the highway to exercise caution, drive to the conditions and keep to the reduced speed limit when advised by traffic controllers.
“If smoky conditions appear on the highway, motorists should slow down, turn on the vehicles headlights and close all windows and vents.
“Smoke from bush fires affects some people more than others. Children, older adults and people with heart and lung issues in particular.”
Motorists are reminded to be aware of emergency service vehicles which may be travelling between sites for firefighting activities.
Roads and Maritime will continue to work with emergency services and will advise if further roads closures on the highway are anticipated, the spokesperson said.
“The community is thanked for its patience while the road was closed to ensure motorist safety and allow emergency services to fight the fire,” the spokespersonsaid.
RURAL Fire Service crews are confident a bushfire in the Pilliga National Park will be contained in the coming days.
The fire, which so far has burnt more than 57,000 hectares, began last Thursday after a lightning strike caused the dry bushland area to catch fire.
Since then,crews from as far away as the Blue Mountains, Grafton and Kempsey have joined local firefighters and aircraft in battling the blaze.
NSW RFS public liaison officer Angela Daly said firefighters had “a very, very successful day,” on Monday.
“Crews had good success containing the southern side of the fire near Dandry Road and Banksia Trail yesterday and last night,” Ms Daly said on Tuesday.
“We are in a much better position than yesterday.”
Parts of the fire continue to burn and will require crews to battle the flames on foot and from the air.
“There is still some fire burning near the Dandry gorge area,” Ms Daly said.
“This is a really challenging area for crews due to the lack of access, so crews will walking in and assesing the area with hand tools as well as working alongside firefighting aircraft.”
Ms Daly said the fire will require “a lot of mopping- up work”.
“There will be a lot to do today and tomorrow in terms of getting burnt areas mopped up, blackened out and ensuring the fire doesn’t continue to burn,” she said.
“Thursday is at this stage still our goal in terms of ensuring up our containment lines.”
Residents will be briefed about the fire by the RFS at meetings on Tuesday evening.
“We will be hosting two information meetings for residents in Barradine and Coonabarrabran,” Ms Daly said.
“The Barradine meeting will begin at 5pm with the Coonabarrabran meeting to follow at 7pm.
“The meetings will cover all the current fire details and what will happen from here as well as establishing a fire safety plan going forward.”
Ms Daly said the Newell Highway between Narrabri and Coonabarrabran will remain closed for the time being.
“But we will be working closely with Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) to get the road open as soon as possible.
“I think initially the highway will be reopened with speed restrictions but anyone looking for more information about traffic conditions can visit livetraffic.com.”
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting more hot weather in the coming days with temperatures forecast to sit in the high 30s for the rest of the week.