Tenterfield fire almost contained but Drake looks grim

Northern Tablelands RFS superintendent Chris Wallbridge at Sunday's community information meeting at the Tenterfield Showground. Photo by Kim Rhodes.
Northern Tablelands RFS superintendent Chris Wallbridge at Sunday's community information meeting at the Tenterfield Showground. Photo by Kim Rhodes.

Despite the atrocious wind conditions the Tenterfield fire that started on Mt Mackenzie Road on Friday afternoon is around 95 per cent contained, Northern Tablelands Rural Fire Service superintendent Chris Wallbridge told the Star at 4pm.

"It's pretty much under control," he said.

"There's still the mopping and the occasional flare up, which crews are dealing with."

Extra strike teams have been brought in to deal with the blaze but he expects it to be under control by tomorrow, Tuesday.

He's unable to provide further updates on the condition of firefighter Neville Smith, who is reported to be in a serious but stable condition in Royal Brisbane Hospital. Mr Smith's family has requested the matter be kept private and the RFS is respecting their wishes.

Finding water to fight the fires has been challenging but Supt. Wallbridge said crews are trying to avoid drawing from farmers' dams as much as possible. Timbarra Gold Mine has made one of its clean dams available for fire fighting.

The NSW Environmental Protection Agency has also approved the use of some of the mines other dams in life-threatening situations, although the RFS is hoping to avoid having to use contaminated water.

Closer to Tenterfield, treated waste water is being drawn rather than dipping into the scarce supply of Tenterfield Dam. Elsewhere firefighters are striving to draw only from running creeks.

Meanwhile the Long Gully Road fire continues to burning in bushland south of the Bruxner Highway and south of Drake and Tabulam, to the west of the Clarence River, in the Girard State Forest. It's creeping farther north toward the Ewingar area.

The fire is burning in a north easterly direction along Long Gully Road and Plains Station Road, towards the Bruxner Highway and the villages of Drake and Tabulam. RFS reports that the fire is expected to reach the area of Drake and the Bruxner Highway.

"Firefighters are working with property owners along both these roads to protect properties as the fire front approaches.

"Strong winds are expected to continue today. Fallen trees and fire may impact local roads."

It's hoped more crews can be deployed to that fire once the Tenterfield one is under control.

Strike teams from other areas are being brought in to help, with a local firefighter attached to each crew or meeting up with them at the fire ground, so that those with local knowledge remain in charge.

Supt. Wallbridge conducted a community meeting at the Tenterfield Showground on Sunday afternoon to update affected property owners, primarily from along the Scrub Road area. Another community information meeting was held in Drake Hall today.

He apologised for those with fire retardant on their roofs and properties, but noted it's easier to deal with the retardant than with not having a home.

The disaster recovery team is setting up at council chambers today and has had its first planning meeting, and a Natural Disaster Area has been declared. The emergency evacuation centre continues to operate at Tenterfield Showground, providing food, emergency accommodation and help for those with animals as well as feeding firefighting crews.

It relocated from the Shearing Complex to underneath the grandstand to take advantage of the kitchen there, and will remain open until Friday.

Supt. Wallbridge encouraged affected property-owners to get in contact with services to avail themselves of the support that's being offered.

He also encouraged everyone to check their Bushfire Survival Plan, or create one. Despite the message being spread over the past few years to prepare for these scenarios, he feels people may now really start to heed the advice.

"We're in for a long haul," he said.

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