THE Rural Fire Service is confident that milder conditions this week will enable it to fully extinguish a blaze in Millingandi that destroyed one home and threatened many more in the area on Friday.
Record temperatures throughout the Bega Valley combined with strong north-westerly winds to fan a bushfire that broke out in Millingandi in the early afternoon.
The furnace-like conditions allowed the fire to travel quickly throughout Yellowpinch and Millingandi, with residents advised to leave immediately and head to Merimbula.
Late in the afternoon the fire crossed the Princes Hwy and started spotting into Bournda Nature Reserve.
The area of Forest Lane was of most concern early in the day with fire crews working hard to save homes in the area.
The native wildlife sanctuary Potoroo Palace at Yellow Pinch was also under threat.
Despite earlier reports of two homes lost, Superintendent John Cullen from Far South Coast RFS said the fire claimed only one home.
“One property on Forest Lane was destroyed on Friday, as well as five sheds and one water tank,” he said.
At the peak of the Millingandi fire on Friday, up to 73 firefighters were on the ground, while four water-bombing helicopters and two bulldozers worked to contain the blaze.
A fierce southerly wind change late in the afternoon forced the evacuation of Red Gum Rd in Millingandi, with residents told to leave for Merimbula.
Residents in nearby Wolumla were also told to put their Bushfire Survival Plans into effect and leave for Bega.
The RFS set up evacuation centres at Club Sapphire Merimbula and the Bega Showground, where 10 people turned up, mainly Wolumla residents who had received emergency alert messages as a precaution.
The Princes Hwy between Wolumla and Pambula was closed around 3.30pm on Friday and only reopened to traffic at 9am Saturday.
By lunchtime Saturday, the fire was “being controlled” and the alert level had been downgraded to “advice” with backburning operations being carried out on Millingandi Rd and surrounding areas.
Mr Cullen said the RFS is concentrating its efforts on the western edge of the fire where crews were previously unable to access.
“It’s extremely rugged country and we had trouble getting anyone in there on Friday to get a control wall going.
“However, we’ve gotten in with the help of bulldozers and now RAFT (Remote Area Firefighting Team) can stop that blaze going any further
“Given the dense country in there, backburning isn’t an option.”
Mr Cullen said a containment line had been successfully set up in Bournda National Park.
“The scene at the moment is going pretty well and we’ve been consolidating containment lines since Friday night and mopping up around the edges.
“It’s burnt out 215h with a 6km perimeter.
“A tremendous job was done by all, not just RFS crews on the ground but by the police in informing residents of the danger.
“The aircraft did a fantastic job and that’s a great tool for us now.
“It’s our eye in the sky, feeding us constant information about where the fire is and the best direction to attack it from.”
Mr Cullen said conditions this week will work in favour of mopping up operations.
“We are looking at temperatures not really breaking thirty degrees and fairly light winds from the south east, better conditions all round.”
Marty Webster, community safety officer from Far South Coast RFS said it was pleasing to see residents in the area with bushfire survival plans put them into action early on Friday, with many residents choosing to leave the area for either Merimbula or Bega.
Mr Webster said it may sound repetitive, but Friday’s destructive fire and shocking conditions reinforced the need for everyone to prepare a bushfire survival plan.
“[Friday’s] weather has taken a lot of the moisture out of the ground and fuel, so it remains hazardous and it is still early days in this bushfire season.”
To monitor fire conditions, visit the RFS website, www.rfs.nsw.gov.au, listen to local radio stations or call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737.
If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero (000) immediately